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Bolts of Lightning: The 25 Quickest Cars in Lightning Lap History

By: · January 22, 2018

-Bolts of Lightning: The 25 Quickest Cars in Lightning Lap History-Horsepower: 730; Weight: 3872 lb; Price as tested: $437,844--The front straight at VIR doesn’t usually tell you much. But in the case of the F12, that track section is highly revealing, about both you and the car. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 638; Weight: 3363 lb; Price as tested: $130,935--How much are stickier tires worth? About a second according to our clock. With the Michelin Pilot Sport Cups, which are lightly disguised race rubber, the ZR1’s best lap was 1.1 seconds quicker than it was on more roadworthy Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 475; Weight: 3327 lb; Price as tested: $162,010--Someone inevitably asks: Which one is your favorite? In this field of dreams, it’s impossible to pick one. But if we had to drive one car as fast as possible for an entire tank of gas, it’d be hard to choose anything but the Porsche 911 GT3. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 573; Weight: 3854 lb; Price as tested: $203,100--From the first session on the first day, we suspected that this complicated new hybrid machine would be a difficult onion to peel, and it was. It took all three days, a second or two chipped away each day, to learn its layers and get it down to its ultimate lap time of 2:50.2. The attending Acura engineers pronounced themselves satisfied with our results, and the NSX proved to be the third-quickest car overall through the Climbing Esses, one of the circuit’s most daunting sections. We were never quite ­satisfied, though. When you’re this close to breaking into the 2:40s, such feelings are inevitable. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 650; Weight: 3925 lb; Price as tested: $68,225--The best laps usually happen in the early morning, when the air is cooler than Miles Davis. Later, the track surface turns to lava and no good can come of that. On our go-for-it lap, with the ZL1 huffing the dense morning air, we arrived at the Climbing Esses with greater speed than ever before and couldn’t get it to turn into the first right. While the car mostly stayed on the tarmac, a curb strike bent a front wheel. By the time we changed it and got back in the ZL1, the track was about as cool as Kenny G. READ MORE >>” /></a>-<a href=Horsepower: 562; Weight: 3358 lb; Price as tested: $333,376--We never set out to intentionally damage a car, but accidents do happen and manufacturers begrudgingly accept this. Which is why we were flabbergasted when Ferrari engineer Luca Torre announced, -Horsepower: 640; Weight: 3375 lb; Price as tested: $134,680--When car journos get together, a perennial conversation hobbyhorse is how crude and intimidating the Viper is compared with the Corvette or Europe’s computerized speedsters. But as with Excalibur, the legendary sword that is somewhat handicapped by its attached boulder, the Viper is a fearsome weapon once the right hands get a grip on it. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 550; Weight: 2501 lb; Price as tested: $393,900--Most cars come with a factory warranty, but the Mosler seemingly came with its own factory of ?handlers. And it needed it, too, due to several mechanical issues. The Photon is an evolution of the MT900S. It has the same mildly tuned 550-hp, mid-mounted Corvette LS7 engine, now hooked up to an exotic sequential six-speed Hewland transmission. This and other changes cut 83 pounds from the Mosler’s weight. Mosler also reduced the rear track by 1.2 inches and fitted narrower 315-section tires in place of 345s. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 600; Weight: 3883 lb; Price as tested: $151,880--Nissan refuses to allow the GT-R to swan off into quiet obsolescence, hence this 600-hp model. Because more horsepower is exactly what the GT-R needs. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 600; Weight: 3364 lb; Price as tested: $102,626--The Viper is just the opposite. Its ease of use doesn’t come from prominent understeer but rather from a neutral, progressive, perfectly balanced chassis enhanced by aerodynamic downforce. It’s a pussycat, which is a strange thing to say about a car with 600 horsepower. But it’s content to dance gently around the limit, letting the driver comfortably use every bit of the car’s stunning speed. Where the GT-R simply goes out and does the job, the Viper gives the driver the perfect tools to do the job manually. Its friendliness is nothing short of amazing. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 602; Weight: 3431 lb; Price as tested: $274,120--Lamborghini’s replacement for its chiseled Gallardo was the third-fastest car we had ever tested at Lightning Lap, behind only the Porsche 918 Spyder and Mosler MT900S. Well, that was on Day One anyway. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 562; Weight: 3189 lb; Price as tested: $219,670--Last year, the 3276-pound McLaren 650S Spider hit 162.8 mph on the front straight of a lap lasting 2:45.8. This year, the 3189-pound McLaren 570S hits 162.8 mph there in a lap just 1.6 seconds slower. Like you, we first thought for sure McLaren smuggled a cheater V-8 in the 570S it delivered to VIR. What the top-end number doesn’t tell you, though, is that the 570S lacks all the aero aids the 650S gets. There is no rear wing snapping to vertical under braking or tipping up slightly to improve downforce, thus robbing top-end speed. Plus, the 570S isn’t bolstered by the hydropneumatic suspension magic of pricier McLarens. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 460; Weight: 3445 lb; Price as tested: $79,930--Basically, the Grand Sport is a Z06 with 460 horsepower instead of 650. Like the Z06, it’s weaponized fiberglass, just with a little less fissile material. Equipped with the $7995 Z07 package, which adds Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and carbon-ceramic brakes, the Grand Sport clings to Turn 1 with 1.19 g’s of grip, a close second to the Z06’s 1.20 g’s, the most grip we’ve ever recorded in that corner. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 500; Weight: 3155 lb; Price as tested: $195,020--It’s not as scary as it looks. Everything that makes the Porsche 911 GT3 RS intimi­dating—the tires that barely fit, the shark gills on the fenders, the ironing board hanging off the tail—makes for a friendlier car on the track. The tires, vents, and that wing work to make your palms just a bit less sweaty as you nose the $189,760 GT3 RS into the fast Climbing Esses at 137 mph. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 580; Weight: 3579 lb; Price as tested: $192,310  For 2017, Porsche added 20 horsepower and reworked some of the 911 Turbo S’s electronic systems—the dual-clutch transmission will now bounce off the rev limiter in manual mode, and there’s a new, less intrusive Sport mode for stability control. But we let the prescient PDK automatic shift itself at the 7200-rpm limit, switched stability control off, and rode all 580 horses bareback. Helping to lop off big chunks of time are new tires, track-ready Porsche-spec Pirelli P Zero Corsas that bring increases in stick over the stock P Zeroes. The result of the extra power and grip is that the new 911 Turbo S lapped VIR 4.4 seconds quicker than the Turbo S we tested three years ago and two-tenths of a second quicker than last year’s GT3 RS. READ MORE >>” /></a>-<a href=Horsepower: 550; Weight: 2584 lb; Price as tested: $342,500--And then there’s the Mosler. It was just so astoundingly fast that, frankly, our amateur skills could not fully exploit its capabilities. It handles quite well—predictable, glued down, and with outstanding brake feel. But uncorking the 550-hp LS7 V-8 propels this featherweight, 2584-pound car like a cannon shot. That tremendous speed was in itself unnerving. There are subtle bumps on the gently curved start-finish straight that sent the rear end skipping about to the point that we instinctively feathered the throttle. That surely cost us some time, so we pitted for a shock adjustment. When we went back out, a strip of wheel weights fell off, producing enough vibration that our deeply rooted instincts for self-preservation took over and we parked it. Overall, though, it’s a remarkably well-turned-out car. Warren Mosler’s years of work have paid off. It’s like a streetgoing IMSA prototype, and it’s even quicker than its chart-topping time suggests. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 641; Weight: 3276 lb; Price as tested: $353,115--The McLaren 650S Spider is this rodeo’s unbroken bronc, fighting its rider for the prize with every explosive move. It takes time to learn its behavior and nuances, but eventually the horse and rider come together for a spectacular show. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 650; Weight: 3853 lb; Price as tested: $73,090--Lion tamers. That’s what we felt like after working the 3853-pound 650-hp Camaro ZL1 1LE to a 2:45.7 lap. The 1LE is a modified ZL1 designed for track use. It comes with spool-valve dampers in aluminum housings, steamroller Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R rubber, a wider mouth to better feed its 11 heat exchangers, dive planes that intimidate like face tattoos, and a carbon-fiber TV tray mounted to the trunklid. You need those parts. They’re the chair and whip necessary to keep this lion from eating you. READ MORE >>” /></a>-<a href=Horsepower: 661; Weight: 3428 lb; Price as tested: $358,383--This car, maybe more than any other, marks the end of an era. Put a fork in high-revving, naturally aspirated engines; they’re done. All new performance engines will have a charger of some kind, and Ferrari, the seminal stalwart of 9000-rpm flat-plane-crank screamers, has adopted two turbochargers for its mid-engine V-8–powered supercar. And a smaller V-8 at that. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 650; Weight: 3550 lb; Price as tested: $100,245---Seconds before the Corvette Z06 crosses the start-finish line to begin its hot lap, you’re subjected to 1.20 g’s of lateral acceleration for six full seconds through Hog Pen. A silence falls over the switchboard in your head. Every neuron lines up to get the Z06 moving through space as quickly as possible. Gone are the employment doubts, the mortgage-payment anxieties, and the hair-thinning concerns that clutter up your daily thoughts—domestic worry is not possible at 1.20 g’s. Belt into a Z06 with the Z07 package like this one and the automotive-induced enlightenment lasts exactly 2:44.6. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 645; Weight: 3400 lb; Price as tested: $139,790--As with the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and various other action heroes, the Dodge Viper ACR is festooned with all kinds of fins, vents, and dive planes. Add in the ankle-amputating splitter, a multi-position rear wing, five-point belts, dampers with rebound and compression adjustments, and tires so wide they could steamroll sidewalks and you end up with a genetically modified organism spliced specifically for VIR. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 577; Weight: 3668 lb; Price as tested: $195,875--There are plenty of cars packing more than 577 horsepower on the Lightning Lap all-time leaderboard. There are some equipped with carbon-fiber body panels, torque tubes, drive­shafts, and wings. There are even cars with underbody aerodynamic trickery to manage downforce in accordance with the car’s wishes. But no car, other than the Mercedes-AMG GT R, has all those features plus a dial-in-your-own-talent, race-car–derived nine-mode traction control. READ MORE >>” /></a>-<a href=Horsepower: 500 (est.); Weight: 3130 lb (est.); Price as tested: N/A--We can’t classify this thing as a real car because it’s not. Yet.--This special RC F is a one-off prototype vision for a track-only toy like the Aston Martin Vulcan. Lexus plans to sell it in Japan to rich folk who would rather do playtime in local products than in imports. With carbon-­fiber bodywork, polycarbonate windows, and 721 pounds of Lexus luxury scrubbed from its curb weight, the RC F GT concept is pure track rat. For example, there’s a bare interior, just metal painted black, with a full roll cage and, instead of a center console, there’s a carbon-fiber switch plate with aircraft-style toggles and a bank of push fuses. READ MORE ››-Horsepower: 887; Weight: 3724 lb; Price as tested: $875,175--The 918 cracks 170 mph just after the main-straight kink, meaning that this slight bend, virtually unnoticed in the other cars, is a gut-knotting 1.0-g turn at 165 mph. One g at 165! That’s a number from real racing, the kind that has girls with umbrellas and live TV coverage. Needless to say, working up our nerve in this nearly million-dollar, 887-hp hybrid took some time. READ MORE ››-2017 Ford GT

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