Laguna Seca near Monterey, California is one of the best known race tracks in America. It features plenty of fast corners and lots of elevation change, including the iconic Corkscrew. Located at the highest point on the track, cars come blasting uphill to a blind lefthander that leads them through a series of linked turns as they plunge back downhill. Recently, a Tesla Model 3, a Jaguar I-PACE, and a Lucid Air prototype have taken on Laguan Seca in search of the electric car record. Who won? Read on.
Why do automakers pay professional racing drivers to fling their cars around places like Laguna Seca and the Nurburgring in Germany? Bragging rights. It lets them say things like “Belchfire 5000 sets lap record for cars painted yellow on a Tuesday in October at East Podunk Raceway!” Those headlines are supposed to get buyers all joggled up with excitement so that they rush down their nearest dealer to buy one.
In truth, the cars seen on track may or may not bear any resemblance to production cars. They are prepped and polished by race engineers, fitted with upgraded brakes and race tires, and sent out to tame the turns as best they can. If everything goes right, the manufacturer will get to crow about a new lap record in its ads. If not, no one will ever know.
The games began back in March when Tesla Model 3 owner Matt Crowley took his car to Laguna Seca and set a time of 1:57.5. Crowley’s car had new springs that lowered the car 1.5 inches but was otherwise stock. So far as we know, no Model 3 Performance has attempted to tame Laguna Seca yet.
Then in August, the people from Jaguar showed up with a bright red I-PACE HSE First Edition. They turned it over to professional racer Randy Pobst, who muscled it around the course in 1:48.18. a new lap record for an electric car. The car Probst drove was completely stock according to Jalopnik, although whether it ran with stock tires is unknown. Jaguar dutifully posted a video of the record setting lap on You Tube.
Then Lucid came to Monterey with a prototype version of its Lucid Air in tow. Fitted with racing brake pads and Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires, the car slashed more than 8 seconds off the Jag’s time, finishing at 1:41.67. A subsequent run on special purpose track tires resulted in a lap at 1:39.30. Watch for some cool shots of The Corkscrew in the video.
So there you have it. The Lucid Air is the current electric car champ at Laguna Seca. The only caveat is the Lucid Air is not yet in production while the Jaguar I-PACE most definitely is. And the Lucid Air has a claimed 1000 horsepower compared to the Jaguar’s 400. The Lucid’s lap time is still impressive, though. Now if the company could build an actual factory and get the car into production, that would really be an accomplishment to be proud of.
Before you get too excited about all these records, consider this: The absolute lap record at Laguna Seca was set by driver Marc Gené in a Ferrari Formula One car in 2012. He made it around in a truly astounding 1:05.786. Now that is some serious speed! Word is that Elon Musk wants the next-gen Tesla Roadster to beat it.
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