Koenigsegg went to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps to set a new lap record for production cars with the One:1 last week. They managed to do that, ending practice Wednesday with a time of 2:32.14. It’s not the record they wanted to set or the one they deserve to set. I was there. The world, it seems, is against Koenigsegg.
The record above is the one they, and other outlets, will be touting. But there’s more. The following morning, conditions improved, so they went for another try only to get stopped for exceeding noise limits. They couldn’t do a single hot lap at a track day event, at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
This simply made me mad and paranoid.
[Full disclosure: JF and Tom were shooting APEX: The Story of the Hypercar at Spa, and I got a last minute call to make it there if I want to see Koenigsegg set a new record. After an eleven hour train ride and a night spent at the airport, I crossed the Belgian border in a rental Mini at 6am to be there. Don’t ask why it became so complicated.]
Despite all the fame and numerous speed records set already, Koenigsegg is still a tiny company. That means when they go to a track like Spa for two days to do a lap record, they have a team of four with the car, only two of whom are mechanics, plus two sets of wheels and tires and a few cans of E85 sourced from the only station in the area where they have it on tap.
RSR Spa hosted a premium track day event on Wednesday and Thursday with about fifty cars from classic Alfas and 911s to GT3 Aston Martins, Radicals and pretty much whatever else you could wish for. They even had a yellow LaFerrari, but to see what pure speed really looks like, they let Koenigsegg do some practice laps and have the track just for themselves for the last hour of the second day.
I wasn’t there on Wednesday, but on the big day, I arrived early.
The funny thing about the silver One:1 is that it’s the least ideal of the cars built for doing lap records.
P7106 is the development car, which is at least 110 pounds heavier than the production version due to different carbon fiber used for the tab, the optional roll cage bolted in and certain parts like the exhaust tip being made of aluminum instead of titanium. It also covered about 60,000 miles so far with the same engine, so all in all, it’s a slower car than the blue One:1 I jumped in at Goodwood for a brief neck exercise.
On Thursday morning, she looked slightly battered with a chipped windshield, layered with a wide variety of dead animals. In other worlds, like a real beast.
Wednesday was only Robert Serwanski’s second time driving at Spa, but Koenigsegg’s chief test driver still managed to score a lap record during practice despite running on used tires on a slightly damp track and in traffic.
Here’s how it looked from the cockpit. (In case you would like to see the telemetry data as well, click here.)
Impressive, yet Thursday was supposed to be even better. A new set of Michelin Pilot Cup 2s were waiting to get punished and the sun was high up to keep the tarmac dry with no clouds in sight. The temperature could have been lower of course, but this was as close to ideal as it gets at Spa.
Everybody was pretty excited, and after the guys started her up, we ran down from the paddocks immediately to shoot some footage at Eau Rouge. But while the rest of the group was having a blast, the One:1 only did about three laps before returning to base. After realizing that, there was nothing to do but to walk back to see what’s up.
I was expecting a minor mechanical issue, like an oil leak or something, because supercars and the fact that there’s always something when cars try to go really fast. But the car was fine. Except it was deemed too loud.
Too loud. At Spa.
As it turns out, there are “noisy days” in Belgium, and there are not so noisy days. Wednesday was the former, with the line drawn at 110 dB, the same figure that will apply to the Spa Six Hours endurance race in September. But on Thursday, the limit went down to 103 dB, something the Koenigsegg team wasn’t aware of.
You see that exhaust tip? It’s supposed to be a 3D-printed titanium part, but on this prototype, it’s actually made of aluminum, with a titanium heat shield protecting the bumper above it. It’s also there to amplify the 5 liter Koenigsegg V8’s sound spooled up by those Precision turbos. Obviously, that had to come down immediately if they wanted to fix this.
As it turns out, there are 17 sound measuring points at the Spa circuit, some of which even take pictures of the car, and the data goes straight to the police, who respond so quickly that the guilty car gets red flagged by the marshals long before completing the lap. Crazy, right?
Since there was no way of getting around this apart from trying to hack the car as quickly as possible, the guys got to work. Luckily, Christer, the man responsible for delivering all Koenigseggs to customers found a shop nearby with all sorts of mufflers in stock. He came back with a pair that was closest in diameter, so they covered the inside of the bumper in foil to create a new heat shield, and then started hammering and cutting some steel the old fashioned way to make it fit.
No cutting-edge engineering to report on this time apart from the cut-off wheel.
Of course we were way past noon by the time the car was back together, which meant half of the track day went by without Koenigsegg completing a single hot lap.
With Christian on the phone and Robert slowly baking in this racing suit, we spent most of our time sitting on a pair of Aircore rims wrapped in Michelin’s finest. Talk about $32,000 seats. Without taxes, that is.
While I understand that rules are rules, there were a couple of things that I couldn’t get out of my head the whole time. Let’s start with the One:1 being loud.
It just didn’t sound that loud. Trust me, I spent enough time at Goodwood next to Can Am cars and race-built rotary Mazdas to know what loud does to unprotected ears, and the Koenigsegg seemed very civilized compared to those.
I believe the explanation they gave was that it creates some low frequency noises that you can’t really hear from up close, but that sounded like bullshit to me, especially since RSR Spa had all sorts of GT3 and Cup cars on the track all day long, not to mention these three:
Yep. There’s no fucking way a Koenigsegg One:1 is louder than those. Not on this planet.
After the lunch break, the One:1 looked ready to hit the track if a man with a sound meter confirmed that the modifications worked. Said man arrived soon enough with a device that told us Robert revving the One:1 delicately was good for 100.7 decibels. Only 2.3 dBs from the limit, but still in the green.
But the car was set up for the stock pipe, and the new one resulted in significant power loss and heavy backfiring. It couldn’t stay like that.
So, they had to take the rear apart again to remove the inner tube to make it look modified without losing power for that all important run. More time wasted, fingers crossed.
After she got ready again, some high-end customers wanted to get a ride with F1’s Adrian Sutil driving, but since they couldn’t risk getting banned before the record run, the car stayed put all the way to 5 pm, when Koenigsegg was supposed to get the track for a whole hour.
At 5:10 p.m., we were still waiting for all the other cars to clear the circuit. Then, Robert could finally get out there. I had no idea whether we would ignore a red flag in case it all came down to that.
About two tire warming laps later, I was supposed to be down at Eau Rouge just like before, but the marshals sent me away from where it was okay to stand just a few hours before. Afternoon shift, I suppose.
But that was nothing compared to what Robert experienced out there. Not only could he not finish a single hot lap without getting red flagged, the marshals were physically on the track while they flagged him down.
“Like they were waiting for me,” is how he summed it up after getting back. I certainly haven’t seen anything like this either.
Of course the RSR Spa track day cars got back out there in less than two minutes. This meant an extra forty minutes of playtime for them.
This is when I got really paranoid, which is unusual because I don’t smoke pot. My theory looks very stupid now, I admit, but at that point, here’s what went down in my head while the understandably upset Robert was packing up and leaving quickly without even saying goodbye:
- Here are a bunch of people paying for the track getting some extra time. Pure luck?
- These people are driving 911 Cup cars and have a GT3 RS and a Cayman GT4 already, not to mention a Blancpain Lamborghini Huracan. Aren’t they clearly friends with Volkswagen?
- Wasn’t the Lamborghini Aventador SV the car that set a new Nürburgring record one day before Nürburgring records got banned?
- Isn’t Volkswagen the owner of the only track where you can safely break the speed record?
- Don’t they sell the Bugatti Veyron as the fastest car in the world, and aren’t they working on a new one that will do 286mph?
Chemtrails, I know. I have other theories I can share with you. You should subscribe to my newsletter.
They held the first Gran Prix at the old Spa Circuit in 1925. The track itself has been there since 1921, so I believe those complaining about the noise and forcing their politicians to come up with ridiculous noise regulations should move the fuck away from Spa unless they’ve been living there since before the track existed. In that case, they have all the right to complain.
About 10,000 people live in Spa, I wonder how many of them are over 93-years-old.
As for Koenigsegg, you could argue that they didn’t plan this correctly, but look at the bigger picture.
Either way, they don’t really have to prove anything, the One:1s are all sold. Three went to Germany, including one to a lady who specified her car with pink stripes, of course. The blue car went to England, another to the Netherlands, while the final One:1 is still under wraps, as it’s something very custom.
There wasn’t going to be champagne at the end of Thursday. This wasn’t a media event, just the Koenigsegg team driving down to Spa to do something cool, with two guys finishing off shooting their movie and me trying not to get in their way.
The car can do it and Robert will get much faster after each finished lap, so they will be back soon enough to do this right. It just sucks that they have to try it so hard.
On our way back to Frankfurt, we stepped by the Nürburgring to see if those speed limit signs were for real.
They were. I’ve never seen anything more bizarre than a 200 km/h sign on a race track. But it gets worse.
The signs can be flipped depending on what sort of event are they hosting. The other side says Unfallgefahr, which means “risk of accident ahead”. At the Nürburgring.
I always thought that the risk of accident was the Nürburgring itself, but in 2015, after somebody died who had a wristband informing him that motorsport is dangerous and we are all there for our own risk, that has changed.
Apparently, now, on those very few gorgeous historic race tracks in Europe, you can go fast but only if you do it quietly, or you can go fast, but not too fast, because that’s not what you should aim for during a race.
Bernie Ecclestone, where is your god now? Did he move to Germany? Or is he Belgian?
The crew at the Nürburgring hopes this will all go away next year. This insanity is really not up to them. It’s politics dictated by our very own stupidity.
Photo credit: Máté Petrány/Jalopnik. GIF: TangentVector
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