Preparations by Tesla to test an upgraded version of its Tesla Model S at the famous 20.8km long Nürburgring Nordschleife track are ramping up, albeit with some delays.
The Californian EV maker first broke cover on its plans to take the Model S to the German racing mecca last Friday when CEO and founder Elon Musk announced the plan on Twitter.
Following closely on the heels of the unveiling of Porsche’s first ever all-electric car the Taycan, which had set a record of 7:42 minutes at the gruelling race track, it was first thought the Musk was challenging Porsche to prove the Model S could outdo the Porsche’s lap time.
Nürburgring confirmed soon after that Tesla had in fact booked in to take part in the annual Industry Pool for testing and development of the Model S – which presumably meant some new tech was in the offing – but not before Formula One driver Nico Rosberg step forward to offer his services behind the wheel.
The series of events throughout the week have had watchers keeping a close eye on developments, which has also included a 4-door record set at the Californian Laguna Seca track as published yesterday by Tesla.
This is where it gets a little blurry, because although Tesla booked in for participation in the Industry Pool, Musk has since said that Tesla wouldn’t “try for best lap time this week, as we need to review & tune Model S thoroughly for safety on Nürburgring, especially Flugplatz section.”
Which means it is likely planning to try for a best lap time – after the testing has been done.
But we probably won’t try for best lap time this week, as we need to review & tune Model S thoroughly for safety on Nürburgring, especially Flugplatz section
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 11, 2019
The announcement about the Laguna Seca record is significant in all of this – as reported yesterday by The Driven, the Model S at the Laguna Seca was sporting some new tech, namely a 3 motor set up we now know has been dubbed “Plaid” by Musk, which also has a new chassis prototype.
(Incidentally this vehicle was driven by an amateur driver who is part of the Tesla development team, according to a posting on the company Twitter account.)
Now, onto developments at Nürburgring.
There are at least two vehicles present at the track, one of which is a prototype sporting Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres – pretty standard performance tyres that grip like hell, but wear quickly.
— Chris (@chrismodelsperf) September 6, 2019
This vehicle was videoed being put through its paces on the track by Youtuber Automotive Mike, which you can see here:
Then, there is a second vehicle that appears to be a modified Tesla Model S with wider fenders, fat tires, a roll cage, a P100D+ badge, carbon ceramic brakes, a modified rear wing and Goodyear Eagle F1 semi-slick racing tyres.
This vehicle was spotted by, among others, Car Advice’s Paul Maric, who also heard from locals (who asked to remain anonymous) that Musk has in fact been planning to beat Porsche’s lap time since it first went public with it.
1/3…Yesterday I spotted @nico_rosberg at the Frankfurt motor show and asked him if he will be attempting a lap in the Model S at the Nurburgring. He said that he and @Tesla are "still in discussions". This Model S with roll cage was spotted near the Nurburgring today… pic.twitter.com/IJ4TKdqGKT
— Paul Maric (@PaulMaric) September 12, 2019
Latest pics, folks! They are a giant set of carbon ceramic brakes! Plus extra changes to the rear wing. Will post a link to a more detailed story shortly. pic.twitter.com/EWWhB0Tkd5
— Paul Maric (@PaulMaric) September 12, 2019
As Maric points out via Twitter, “It’d be disappointing if they ran a race-modified car for the attempt…because Porsche will then just do the same…”
It seems there is also another factor added in to the mix – this vehicle has 7 seats, as told by Musk himself on Thursday (Australian time).
Model S at Nürburgring has 7 seats
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2019
This would instead put it in competition with the Skoda Kodiaq RS seven-seat SUV record which it claimed in June at the Nürburgring Nordschleife with female racing driver Sabine Schmitz behind the wheel.
So when will Tesla race the Model S? Seems there has been a time opened up next Saturday 21st September, according to reports.
First though, Tesla has to confirm the safety of its souped-up Model S and it seems, finally confirm who will sit behind the wheel – according to comments made by Rosberg to Maric on Wednesday, Rosberg and Tesla are “still in discussions”.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.