Musings on the Motoring World

Jaguar sets a lap record at a forgotten circuit; should we care?

Ever since Renault set a Nürburgring lap record for a front-wheel drive car with the Megane RS Trophy back in 2011, car manufacturers have started punting their products around in hopes of bagging some that sweet Nürburgring prestige for themselves. Since then there have been titles for the fastest four-door car, fastest estate, fastest electric vehicle, and – inevitably – fastest SUV.

For all of The Motor Muse stoic cynicism to any manufacturer manufactured excitement, the quest for Nürburgring bragging rights is an effective way of establishing the performance pecking order, like any good schoolyard – or prison yard for that matter. If anything, their exhaustive lap-setting efforts are certainly going to cut short the average weekly pub brawls over who is faster. So take it more as a useful public service to the betterment of pubs.

Aside from the ‘Ring’s little issue of being so massive that its own terrain varies weather and temperature at different points of the track to a significant degree that it can affect the performance of both car, driver, and tyres, allowing for a huge range of variables, it is still an ideal neutral ground for manufacturers to settle their differences and open to the public to grasp the scale of their achievement. Good luck getting Ferrari to let you have a spin around Fiorano or Volkswagen open the gates to their top-secret Ehra-Lessien facility.

The only trouble with this quest for lap records is when it starts spilling out onto other tracks. Aside from setting a new Nürburgring lap record, Honda wanted to cement its Civic Type R as the undisputed track day top dog by setting lap records at five other famous and established circuits. You know, just to hammer the message home.

Shortly after Honda’s record-setting campaign, the good lads at MOTOR magazine also set the yardstick at Australia’s newly opened The Bend Motorsports Park, the second longest permanent circuit in the world, in Porsche’s Nürburgring conquering 911 GT2 RS.

While The Bend, and the six circuits that now have Honda Civic Type R stamped on its record books, will be relevant as it is open for other competitors to come around and set out for their own lap records, the hypothetical “defecating bear in the woods” question has to be asked; “if a car was to set a lap record around a circuit that nobody is using, does it constitute a lap record?”

Well, wonder no more as Jaguar has answered that question by claiming a lap record at a track in France that was last used in 1988 with a sporty variant of their XE sedan. The circuit in question is the Circuit de Charade, a former Grand Prix circuit, which in its original layout measured in at 8km long with 48 turns, winded around an extinct volcano, and played host to the French Grand Prix in ‘65, ‘69, ‘70, and ‘72.

Due to the dead volcano at the track’s centre, the presence of loose volcanic rock and the lack of run-off areas made the circuit too hazardous for Grand Prix competition, and the full circuit was abandoned with part of the circuit resuming its permanent role as a public road.

Instead of rolling out their track-focused Nürburgring record holder, the XE SV Project 8, Jaguar thought that the disused circuit would be a better place to demonstrate the capabilities of their 221kW XE 300 Sport sedan, which, when you think of it, is an ideal setting for a middling executive sedan to earn some sort of title at least.

With the cooperation of local authorities to close the roads for the flying lap, Jaguar claims that its driver managed to set a production sedan lap record. A lap time that is as worthy of mention as a participation trophy for a race no one else showed up for. Considering the circumstances of the circuit’s unused status and with little possibilities for a challenger to emerge, that time will not just remain indefinitely but definitely remain irrelevant.

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