This is brave: hire the old Nürburgring for the day, invite a small number of hacks along, some of whom have never been here before, equip them with a 562bhp engine in a car weighing less than a tonne and a half, and tell them to help themselves.
No disclaimers, no indemnities, no instructions to keep the stability systems active, nothing other than the rather sweetly expressed hope that you have a jolly good time. In my line of business, approximations to heaven on earth don’t come much closer than this.
The car in question was Toyota’s Lexus LFA carbonfibre supercar, but tweaked, honed and adapted for track use. Which means new suspension, wheels, tyres to provide mechanical grip, a completely new front, side and rear aero package that increases downforce by a third, and a token 11bhp more for the 4.8-litre V10 motor to cancel out the extra drag.
Predictably, it is a mighty thing. To warm up I drove the standard LFA and, to be honest, found very little wrong with it: in fact for a road car on road tyres, it was outstanding.
But the so-called Nürburgring Package edition (which will account for just 50 of the 500 LFAs Lexus will build) is something else again.
Making a quick road car work at the ’Ring is a hideously tricky task. Because they have so little wing they actually go much faster in a straight line than racing cars with the high-downforce set-up required for a decent lap time. But when they hit the bumps, fly over the crests or get unsettled by camber changes, they have none of the racing equipment to deal with it. Even I was turning into the kink under the bridge at only a little less than 170mph while its chief test driver, Akira Lida, was foot to the floor in the same place at over 180mph. He did a 7min 14sec lap, a time that would have put him 10th on the grid for the 1983 Nürburgring 1000Kms, the last time Group C sports cars raced here.
The secret to this car’s lap time is not just sheer speed, but also the confidence it inspires in its driver. The wings, suspension and tyres all contribute, but probably most of all because they make the car easier to drive fast than a normal LFA: more settled in the really quick curves and with better body control over the yumps and bumps. Inside it actually feels less dramatic and therefore less fast.
Just a couple of Nürburgring LFAs will come to the UK, and at £403,100 a pop you can see why. Is it worth it? Not to me, but I can’t see the sense in spending that kind of money on any new road car. To those who can, however, there’s a rare and special machine waiting for them.
ENGINE: 4.8 litres, 10 cylinders
TOP SPEED: 202mph
PRICE: £403,100 approx
POWER: 562bhp at 8700rpm
FUEL/CO2: n/a mpg, n/a g/km