The LF-A Nurburgring Package is what happens to an LF-A after it hits the gym

The Lexus LFA Nurburgring Package is the last hurrah of a truly special car, the first and, so far, only supercar built by Lexus. It is a lighter, more agile and, overall, faster version of the oh-so-loud LFA that dried up Toyota’s pockets only to be regarded at the time of its arrival as "too expensive for what it offers." Now, as the years have passed, more and more car guys and journalists started to come around and appreciate the Nurburgring-honed LFA for what it is, a very charismatic supercar.

Everyone knows about the LFA’s enormous development time that spanned almost a decade as Lexus switched from its original plans of building it around an aluminum monocoque and decided upon a carbon fiber structure that, in turn, called for updates to be made at the Motomachi plant that wasn’t ready to build a CFRP car. To this day, it’s unclear precisely how much Toyota actually spent to make the LFA a reality, but we reckon that the reason behind the secrecy lies in the obscenity of the sum.

As a swansong to the LFA, Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s CEO and one of the key people in the creation of this halo model, greenlighted a batch of 50 track-focused examples that came with the "Nurburgring Package." This package included changes to both the bodywork and the internals, changes that came about after years of testing and racing around Germany’s famed Nurburgring-Nordschleife circuit in the Eifel Mountains.

  • 2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package
  • Year:
    2012
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V10
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    562
  • Displacement:
    4,8 L
  • 0-60 time:
    3.7 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    210 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package Exterior

  • The LFA previewed a new generation of the L-finesse design language
  • One of the few front-mid-engined supercars out there
  • Updated, unique aerodynamic package
  • Fixed rear wing
  • Extended carbon fiber lip
  • Winglets for added downforce around the corners of the nose
  • Unique dark gray, multi-spoke, magnesium, BBS-sourced wheels
  • Only offed in glossy black, matte black, race yellow, or whitest white
2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package High Resolution Exterior
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In the grand scheme of things, the Lexus LFA makes no sense in the lineup of a brand like Lexus. After all, they’re known for their well-appointed, well-built luxury cars that are true BMW or Mercedes rivals, albeit maybe a bit more boring than the Germans. This is exactly what Lexus wanted to change with the second car under the F umbrella after the IS F.

This car, that took so much to build and had to fight through so many dismissive boards, and hesitant engineers are now something that Lexus still looks up to as a source of inspiration.

Three years ago, the media was revving up about Lexus potentially building a replacement for the LFA, a car that’s been out of production for four years by that point. Lexus’ European Boss Alain Uyttenhoven rose to answer these claims by saying that ”the LFA is an icon now and possibly always will be - we don’t need to replace it to keep that status. It is a car we can reference for another 25 years if we choose. Its status is assured."

Those are very bold words from an automaker, that’s for sure, but it isn’t all empty PR talk. Let’s take a short look back at the car’s history to understand why it achieved its goal of becoming the company’s "halo product" and to understand why the ’Nurburgring Pack’ version is, essentially, the creme de la creme.

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The LFA was born in the mind of Haruhiko Tanahashi, the man behind the ST165 Celica GT-Four, who realized that Toyota had the Shibetsu proving grounds in Japan but no supercar to play with on the winding mountain course or the high-speed oval. This was back in 2000 and Hiromu Naruse, who was still Toyota’s chief test engineer, enthusiastically joined Tanahashi on his unofficial project. Naruse knew Akio Toyoda from the days he mentored him in his training courses behind the wheel. As such, he knew Toyoda was both passionate about cars and quite a skilled wheelman and, while he wasn’t yet an important figure on Toyota’s board he was still an heir of the founding Toyoda family, so his opinion was respected even back then.

Indeed, Akio was enthusiastic about the project and proved to be the engine that pushed it through all the naysayers and on to the production line. He recalled that "the more I trained, the more I learned, and I began to understand where the vision could fit within Lexus." He also drove some of the early LFA test mules and would later reason that "[the LFA] could be the secret sauce… the secret sauce that flavors every car."

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But this sauce proved to be tricky to create. As Atsushi Takada, one of Toyota’s top marketing specialists put it, "[the LFA] required huge resources – all of the components had to be developed uniquely, and it would not be possible to repurpose the parts.” In spite of this, Takada told board members that he reckons this car, that’s not meant for profitability, and it doesn’t kneel before what customer studies say, is worth it to raise awareness to the company’s engineering prowess and its ability to create amazing, soulful cars, not only bland sedans, crossovers and SUVs. Haruhiko Tanahashi, who became the Chief Engineer of this project, echoed Takada’s thoughts saying that "what we needed was a car that moved its driver in more ways than one, a car that stirred each of the five senses."

The first prototypes of the LFA were ready by 2003 while the engine had been on the dyno first time the previous year.

The engine, obviously, was the glorious 1LR-GUE naturally-aspirated DOHC V-10 with a displacement of 4.8-liters that was designed to be smaller than usual V-8 units. It stood in front of the driver albeit towards the middle of the car. The first LF-A prototype appeared in 2005, but Lexus denied an intent to put it into production. Then, two other prototypes arrived in 2007 and 2008 respectively, followed by the carbon fiber-tubbed production car in 2009. The first details of the ’Nurburgring Pack’ version emerged in March of next year and, by 2012, all of the cars had been produced, Lexus building one LFA per day.

2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package High Resolution Exterior
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Acute angles are the key design element of the LFA. They’re everywhere you look to the point that the only car with more triangles is a Mazda RX-8 and that’s because it’s rotary-engined. Up front, this track-focused LFA still features the main air inlet below the car’s rounded nose section where the Lexus badge is placed. It also has the same triangular side vents placed outboard underneath the similarly three-sided headlights that get narrower towards the center of the front fascia.

Between the headlights, just where the hood ends, there's another inlet that opens up across the width of the hood.

Two creases continue down from the outer edge of the headlights and define the vertical side of the triangular air inlets before they reach the tip of the carbon fiber splitter extension. This extension is unique to the LFA Nurburgring Pack, and it gives the car more front end downforce. The lip wraps around the front overhang and raises up just before the front wheels. Above it, on the sides, there are carbon fiber winglets that work in unison.

The LFA has a pretty profile: low and very mean. You’ll notice the straight-cut inlets carved in the car’s rocker panels before the rear wheel arches. These are echoed above by holes that peek forward on the B-pillars. There’s actually a microscopically-small triangular window aft of the B-pillar itself and above this body-colored intake.

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The 20-inch BBS wheels, specifically sourced for the ’Nurburgring Pack’ LFA, are wrapped by grippier Bridgestone Potenza RE070 rubber. They are a close relative to the wheels used by the proper race-going LFA models and look at least as good as the standard LFA rims, beside the fact that the car sits closer to the ground by 0.4 inches due to the modified suspension.

Towards the back, the LFA greets you with the big carbon fiber wing supported by two beefy struts and the triangular triple-tip exhaust.

The back in its entirety is unique with those narrow horizontal taillights positioned right at the top of the rear fascia, slightly wrapping around the rear corners of the car, and the huge air vents that are almost as wide as the taillights are long. There are two smaller vents in the lower rear bumper to the left and the right of the exhaust tips.

Lexus tested back in June 2012 an even sportier LFA with the exhaust pipes exiting through the two big vents on the sides of the rear end so that the lower part of the bumper is clear and ready to welcome a sizeable diffuser. This version had "A-DA-labeled side stripes, a bare carbon roof, and hood which had more air vents cut into it.

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2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package Dimensions

Wheelbase 102.6 inches
Length 177.4 inches
Width 74.6 inches
Height 47.6 inches

2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package Interior

  • Ultra-well-made interior includes Alcantara leather, carbon fiber, and quality metals
  • Looks almost identical to a standard LFA on the inside
  • Race-style seats
  • The infotainment system is recessed in the dash
  • Carbon fiber door panels
  • Carbon fiber center console
  • Carbon fiber F-badged steering wheel
2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package High Resolution Interior
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The interior of the LFA is nothing short of exquisite. From the heavily bolstered seats to the tall center console with its two bars with controls on them and the digital tachometer behind the steering wheel.

You'd expect the 'Nurburgring Pack' version to come with a stripped out interior but that's simply not something that Lexus would do, instead, you get all the creature comforts that exist on all the other 490 LFAs out there.

The new seats, as I said, offer great lumbar support and they aren’t that tight either. You also get seatbelt airbags on the LFA. Another thing you get is the V-10s symphonic sound filling the cabin via twin ducts which connect the firewall with the intake manifold. The engine was co-developed with Yamaha and the company’s music division was involved as well to the extent that the engine was tuned to sound "in the manner of an Ovation guitar."

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The steering wheel has two main buttons on it, one of which starts the engine. Once the engine roars into life, you'll notice the electronic tachometer also light up.

Lexus employed an electronic tachometer after realizing that the analog needle-based setup simply can’t keep up with how fast this car revs. Actually, at the time, the LFA had the fastest-revving production engine that could go from naught to the redline - which is at 9,000 rpm - in 0.6 seconds. As such, a digital gauge was manufactured back before digital gauge clusters became a thing.

Inside the LFA you’ll find two suitcases designed by Tumi and wrapped in carbon fiber-like material. That is, frankly, about as far as the practicality of the LFA’s cabin goes. Between the seats, towards the front of the center console, there are the controls for the electrohydraulic manual transmission as well as a touchpad for the infotainment system. On the two metal-wrapped bars there are other buttons linked to the ventilation system and the window defrosting. The Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management stability control system can also be controlled from the center console.

2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package Drivetrain

  • Ten horsepower over the standard LFA
  • V-10 engine
  • 563 horsepower and
  • 354 pound-feet of torque
  • Top speed of 202 mph
  • Stiffer and more adjustable suspension
  • Quicker gearbox
  • Nurburgring lap in 7:14.640 minutes
  • 7 seconds quicker than a standard LFA
  • 10 seconds below the benchmark set by the 997-generation Porsche 911 GT2 RS
  • Double-wishbone front suspension
  • Multi-link rear suspension
  • Electric power steering
2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package High Resolution Drivetrain
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Six years. That’s how much it took between the time Lexus tested the first LFA mule, and the first production model rolled out of the Motomachi plant. The reasons behind the multiple delays are many. First of all, Lexus wanted to fit a V-8 under the hood of the LFA, but they realized it wasn’t going to rev as high as they wished so then they decided to build a V-10 that would be as compact as most V-8s.

Furthermore, there was a change in chassis construction as the original aluminum construction was considered to be too heavy, so a CFRP honeycomb was decided upon later on, dramatically increasing the costs in the process.

An autoclave was built to cure the CFRP parts that went into the monocoque that was glued to the front and rear aluminum subframes via aluminum flanged collars. With over 60% of the chassis being made of CFRP, Lexus said the weight saving is in the 220 pounds ballpark compared to the original aluminum design. With the Nurburgring Pack, the LFA lost another 220 pounds!

2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package High Resolution Exterior
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The compact engine is pushed as far back as possible, sitting right next to the windshield.

It's a 72-degree 4.8-liter V-10 with a power output of 563 horsepower at 8,700 rpm and 354 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm although most of the torque is available as early as 3,700 rpm.

The engine features forged aluminum pistons, forged titanium connecting rods, and solid titanium valves. Each cylinder has an electronically-controlled throttle body that receives air through a dual-stage variable intake manifold.

The transaxle was made by Alsin in Japan and is a six-speed automated sequential gearbox with flappy paddles behind the steering wheel. Suspension is by double wishbones up front with coil overs and multi-link at the rear, again with coilovers. Brakes are from Brembo, the LFA having an early form of brake-by-wire.

How does it all translate to the place it was born to dominate, namely the track? Well, Andrew Frankel wrote for Autocar magazine back in 2011 that "what the ’Ring package does most notably, apart from making the car an unspecified number of seconds quicker, is to make it easier to drive." Frankel goes on to state that you do feel extra mechanical grip as well as aerodynamic downforce, although not in enormous quantities. However, what this does, he concludes, is give you the confidence to push harder. After all, Lexus went for a front-engine rear-wheel-drive layout for a more forgiving behavior, and the ’Nurburgring Package’ version is more forgiving at the limit than the standard model.

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CAR Magazine also had the chance to take one around the Nordschleife and their verdict is that the LFA is "In many ways, Japan’s Bugatti Veyron." However, the slightly faster gearbox was still criticized as "still not quite right" due to its tardy feel in comparison to the dual-clutch gearboxes on contemporary Ferraris or McLarens. In the end, while the gearbox remains "the weakest link" of the LFA even in Nurburgring Pack attire, CAR underlines that "a flawed shift doesn’t really sour this experience."

2012 Lexus LF-A Nurburgring Package Specifications

Engine Naturally-aspirated, even-firing, 72-degree, 40-valve 4.8-liter DOHC V-10 with forged aluminum pistons, forged titanium connecting rods, and solid titanium valves
Compression ratio 12.0:1
Bore x stroke 3.46 x 3.11 inches
Output 562 HP @ 8,700 RPM
Torque 352 LB-FT @ 6,800 RPM
0 to 62 mph 3.7 seconds
Top speed 202 mph
Steering Rack and pinion with electric power steering
Suspension Double wishbones up front with a multi-link setup at the rear, coilovers all around with adjustable dampers
Brakes Brembo ventilated disc brakes all around, 15.4-inch in diameter up front and 14.2-inch at the rear
Weight 3,262 pounds

The LF-A’s racing resume

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Lexus began bringing LFA test mules to the Nurburgring-Nordschleife track around 2004. Then, in 2007, Toyota founded the Gazoo Racing team, its purpose being preparing and racing Toyota and Lexus machinery in the VLN and the 24-hour race at the ’Ring for development’s sake. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how much Gazoo Racing grew as it’s now not only the outfit managing the WEC, Dakar and WRC efforts, as well as the name of a whole lineup of sporty road cars sold in Japan and elsewhere.

It was chief test driver's Hiromu Naruse conviction that a sporty car is best developed through comprehensive track testing that then morphs into actual racing.

Gazoo Racing first showed up for the 24-hour race at the ’Green Hell’ with Lexus’ supercar in 2009 with a pair of LFA racing prototypes that were appropriately camouflaged because the road-going LFA wasn’t ready yet. This was actually the second entry of the LFA in the race as another prototype ran in the 2008 edition of the race under the "Team LF-A" banner. It qualified 27th overall with a best lap of 9:25.110 but finished a lowly 121st overall.

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At the car’s second appearance, things went way better, and the No. 14 example finished 87th overall with "Morizo," Javier Quiros, Takayuki Kinoshita, and Akira Iida, the former Le Mans class winner who also set the lap record at the ’Ring with the LFA Nurburgring Pack in 2011. The other entry, No. 15, was driven by a sleuth of German drivers including Armin Hahne, Jochen Krumbach and future Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer, besides Hiromu Naruse himself. Naruse first drove at the Nordschleife in a race two years prior when Gazoo Racing entered a tiny Toyota Altezza in the race that finished 104th overall.

The LFA returned without camo and a more evolved body kit in 2010 when Gazoo Racing debuted the N2410 racing version.

This car further evolved into the LFA Code-X in 2014 and last ran the 24-hour race in 2015. Over the years, it won the SP8 class (in 2012 and again, via a 13th place finish overall in 2014), and the SP-Pro class twice in 2014 and 2015 respectively. In 2014, the LFA almost got within the top 10 overall, finishing 11th.

Now, you may be asking yourself who is that "Morizo" driver that kept showing up with Gazoo Racing and was part of the winning lineup in 2014. Well, "Morizo" was the nickname used by Akio Toyoda himself so he could stealthily race without the media bothering him excessively. “I would have been harshly criticized if I’d used my own name,” Akio revealed. “Not by other competitors but by the board.” This was no flight of fancy, however, as he went on to explain: “It was about seasoning the car. I needed to develop my own senses to build a better car.”

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Toyota even intended to bring the LFA to the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans. One test mule was built and tested back in 2011 at Valencia’s GP track.

It was said to offer more oomph than the Nurburgring-ready versions that had about 475 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque on tap, but it never raced.

The reason? Toyota was urged to join the same World Endurance Championship in the top-flight LMP1 class one year earlier than they originally planned.

That’s because Peugeot, who was nearing the completion of their 2012 program with a hybrid version of the Peugeot 908, ominously pulled the plug on the whole thing overnight. The then-new FIA WEC was left with only one works team in its top P1 category and, as such, pushed Toyota to come forth with the TS030 prototype sooner, at the 2012 edition of the Le Mans race. This meant that Toyota had to direct all the funds to the P1 project and had no time, manpower or cash to fight on to fronts with the LFA GTE model.

Pricing

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The LFA has always been a ludicrously expensive car. When it was launched, in 2010, one of the 50 cars set you back $445,000, about $70,000 more than the less aggressive LFA. That’s about $500,230 in today’s money. It was a lot but, as Frankel put it, "once you drive it, it’ll pretty much sell itself."

It also goes without saying that, with only 50 cars originally built, out of which barely 15 were dispatched to the U.S., it’s an incredibly rare beast, rarer than a LaFerrari, a Veyron, a Carrera GT or any sort of fast Mercedes-Benz. But not all LFAs sold. Road & Track ran a story back in 2017 pointing out that 12 brand-new cars sat unsold in dealerships across the U.S. They’re all most likely standard LFAs, and that number went from 12 to just 7 examples as three were sold in 2017 and two in 2018, but it’s still a very interesting statistic in itself.

In the past few years, a couple of auction houses offered LFA Nurburgring Pack models up for grabs. Barrett Jackson sold one for $700,000 while another one sold last year at Gooding & Company’s Scottsdale auction for $850,000. You can expect the price for one to reach $1,000,000 soon...

Competition

McLaren MP4-12C

2011 - 2013 McLaren MP4-12C High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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2013 McLaren MP4-12C

The McLaren MP4-12C was McLaren’s first mass-produced road car and stands as the first car built and designed from end to end by McLaren Automotive themselves. Like the LFA, the MP4-12C sports a carbon fiber chassis over which a Frank Stephenson-penned body was laid. It’s, by today’s standards, the most reserved-looking McLaren, almost a ’sleeper’ in comparison to the ultra-aggressive 570S, for instance.

McLaren used two Ferrari F360s and an Ultima GTR to test various components that later ended up on the MP4-12C that rolled off the Woking production line in 2011. The engine of choice was McLaren’s own 3.8-liter M838T twin-turbocharged V-8 that develops 592 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 443 pound-feet of torque at 5,600 rpm. The power reaches the wheels through a seven-speed automatic dual-clutch gearbox made by Graziano Oerlikon.

Officially, the MP4-12C has a top speed of 207 mph, but people have been able to go much faster, reaching 215 mph in the Spider version that’s supposed to be slower than the coupe. As for the acceleration times, a stock MP4-12C can reach 62 mph in about 3 seconds and 100 mph in 6 seconds. The weight of the car is 3,161 pounds.

McLaren originally had a $250,000 price tag on the MP4-12C (that was later renamed to ’12C’ after the MP designation fell from all McLarens). Today, you can buy an MP4-12C for just $120,000, more than %50 less than the original MSRP. That’s great news because, genuinely, the car is a joy to drive fast and it’s also civil enough to be daily’ed. The issue is exclusivity. If you care about that, you won’t care about the MP4-12C that’s had more screen time on YouTube and music videos than many, many really fast cars.

Read our full review on the 2011 McLaren MP4-12C

Ferrari 458 Italia

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia
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Unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, the 458 is a clear step above the F430, proving that each of Ferrari’s new models in the 21st century is able to push the bar even higher than before. We’re seeing this trend continue with the 488 Pista, for instance, that’s just ludicrously effective on track and beyond.

The 458 was designed by Donato Coco for Pininfarina and was fitted with the F136 4.5-liter naturally-aspirated V-8 engine. It was to be the last naturally-aspirated mid-engined Ferrari as the 488 brought turbocharging across the board. This unit developed 562 horsepower at an ear-splitting 9,000 rpm and 398 pound-feet of torque at 6,000 rpm. All those prancing horses reach the back wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch Getrag-sourced transmission. The 458 thus became the first ’budget’ Ferrari not to be offered with a manual. Nowadays, no Ferrari comes with a clutch pedal, for better or for worse.

Like the LFA, the 458 Italia has double wishbones up front and a multi-link setup at the rear coupled with E-Diff and F1-Trac traction control systems. These help the 458, which weighs 3,450 pounds, reach 62 mph in just 3.4 seconds and continue on to a top speed of 202 mph. So, despite being almost 200 pounds heavier than the LFA Nurburgring Pack, the 458 is quicker to 62 mph. Then, there are the quirky adaptive magnetorheological dampers that are standard to the 458 that massively improve handling.

The 458 Italia proved to be a hit, Ferrari selling in excess of 16,000 of them between 2009 and 2015 when it was replaced by the 488. That’s why you can find one for as little as $160,000 today, $70,000 off the original asking price back in 2013. It’s most definitely cheaper while still being easy to drive when you want it and hugely rewarding when you start kicking its guts and demanding for everything that it has to offer. With that being said, you’ve probably already seen dozens of 458 Italias out and about or in music videos, films, TV series or at various car shows... but how many LFA Nurburgring Package examples have you seen in the past half decade?

Read our full review on the 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

Conclusion

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You first have to get the LFA to like it but, once you do, you won’t just like it, you’ll fall in love with it. Yes, it only offers performance on par with entry-level supercars from Ferrari or McLaren while trading hands at six times the price, but this isn’t a car for someone that’s looking for best value for the money spent. It’s a car for someone that appreciates all those years of development, all the efforts that were made to even have those 500 cars built and everything else in between.

That’s not to say that the car itself is not good. It is, frighteningly good. Yes, the gearbox is not perfect, it begs for a dual-clutch to keep up with its peers, but it can still beat many of them on the track thanks to that aero package that was developed after years of racing and thousands of test miles. It’s hard to find a car with a closer link to the Nurburgring-Nordschleife than the LFA, and it’s hard to find a modern Japanese car with a more exotic pedigree.

  • Leave it
    • Very, very expensive and the prices will only go up
    • People will report you to the police for revving that V-10 engine

Further reading

2011 Lexus LF-A
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Read our full review on the 2011 Lexus LF-A.

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