Nürburgring lap times: You either hold them as a benchmark for performance comparisons — a way to tell who’s truly the fastest — or you don’t really care. But automakers care about them a lot, because they’re easy enough to refer back to for some instant performance cred. And Audi just set the record for the fastest lap time in a compact car with the 2022 RS3.
The time? 7:40:748. That was good enough to beat the previous class record around the Green Hell, held by the Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy-R, by 4.64 seconds. The RS3 lap was recorded in June, in a camouflaged sedan driven by Audi Sport development driver Frank Stippler.
The RS3 in question was reportedly fitted with the same Pirelli Trofeo-R semi-slick rubber customers can option from the dealer. Tire pressures were adjusted for the Nürb, and a proper roll cage and racing seats were fitted to keep Stippler safe and firmly planted while he did all the hard work.
Some Nürburgring experts, like Dale Lomas of BridgeToGantry, denounce such alterations because they take the car in question out of the realm of what’s considered stock and arguably, the result isn’t appropriate for a leaderboard of production cars.
Footage of the Mégane’s effort proves the hatch didn’t have a roll cage like the RS3 did. As for the seats, it’s difficult to tell. Comparing Nürburgring lap times is also more difficult than it should be these days, particularly because the nature of what constitutes a lap of the famed circuit changed two years ago.
It was then that the track organizers themselves began certifying their own “official” lap of the 12.9-mile Nordschleife, doing away with the old bridge-to-gantry scheme that made the overall distance some 250 yards shorter than it is now. Because of this, times recorded since 2019 are incomparable with those recorded before 2019, unless the automaker went out of its way to publish both laps like Mercedes-Benz did last November for the AMG GT Black Series.
The ’Ring’s official lap criteria was supposed to remove some of the variability manufacturers had exploited in trying to set records. Evidently it’s not as stringent as it could be, considering the differences between the equipment fitted to the only two cars on the compact class leaderboard.
Comparing the RS3 and Mégane on paper, it’s hard to imagine Audi wouldn’t have come out ahead regardless of some of those changes. The new RS3 has a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system and 394 horsepower in Euro trim, or 401 HP for North American models. The Renault hatch was a front-wheel-drive car with about 100 fewer horsepower, though it also likely weighs a hell of a lot less than the RS3, at 2,879 pounds. We don’t have those numbers on the new RS3, but the outgoing sedan tipped the scales at 3,593 pounds.
Both cars come within striking distance of the 7:38:925 lap recorded by the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S in June, which leads the SUV category. The current record holder among all production cars is the 991-generation Porsche 911 GT2 RS (equipped parts from Manthey Racing), which turned in a time of 6:43.300 — almost exactly a minute faster than the new compact leader.