Horst von Saura and the record-setting Alfa 4C, complete with special Pirellis and taped panel gaps, on the Nordschleife.
Horst von Saura and the record-setting Alfa 4C, complete with special Pirellis and taped panel gaps, on the Nordschleife.

Alfa Romeo confirms 4C's 'Ring record

Time of article published Oct 18, 2013

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A long time ago (well, 55 years is a long time unless your name is Yoda) Lotus founder Colin Chapman said: "If you make a car more powerful it will go faster on the straights; if you make it lighter it will go faster everywhere."

That's still true, as Alfa Romeo proved on 12 September (and has now officially confirmed) by sending its new 4C mini-supercar out on the infamous Nordscheife at the historic Nürburgring in Germany with driver-cum-motoring journalist Horst von Saurma at the wheel.

Noted 'Ring specialist Von Saurma went round the 20.6km circuit, with its unforgiving combination of tight corners and high-speed sweeps, short straights and roller-coaster elevation changes, in 8min04 - a new record for a car with an engine producing less than 185kW.

How'd he do it? With a combination of three factors.

The first was Chapman's mantra: the Alfa 4C has a 1750cc turbopetrol four that delivers 177kW at 6000Nm, but weighs significantly less than a ton, even with enough fuel on board for half an hour (that's three laps, Cyril!) at full tilt boogie.

The second was the turbo, which enables the engine to produce 80 percent of its 350Nm of torque from 1800rpm all the way to 4500, and gives the 4C mid-range acceleration out of all proportion to its actual capacity.

And finally, the tyres, custom-made Pirelli P Zero Trofeo 'AR Racing' gumballs in 18" front and 19" rear fittings, developed over nearly a year of collaboration to be a perfect match for the 4C's somewhat rear-biased 40:60 weight distribution.

As sticky and short-lived as they undoubtedly are, Pirelli assures us they are street-legal and will be available for your 4C, so you can drive to the circuit and do a track day without needing a back-up vehicle for your second set of wheels.

Together they add up to some startling numbers:

0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds, 255km/h flat out (remember, this is a 1.8-litre car we are talking about) and the ability to pull 1.2g under braking and 1.1g laterally through corners.

That's roughly the same as being rugby-tackled from the side by somebody a little bigger than you are.

Hat tip to Herr Von Sauma, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery and the guys at the Alfa Romeo competition department - and a silent toast to Colin Chapman, who figured it out long before the rest of us did.

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