Audi recently made quite the stir, with an official Nürburgring lap time of 7:40.748, which made it the fastest compact car around the famous Green Hell. As of right now, there’s no official lap time for a car in the same compact segment that’s faster than the RS3’s. However, the key word there is “official”. Not every automaker with cars in the segment have published official lap times, which raises the question — is it really the fastest compact car around the ‘Ring?
There’s one very specific reason — or I should say, one very specific car — that makes me ask that question: the BMW M2 CS. BMW’s M2 CS is one of the most capable, fun, and exciting driver’s cars on the market right now, in any segment. It’s a sensational little machine, one I had the chance to drive on both road and track. In the hands of a driver far more talented than myself, Christian Gebhardt from Sport Auto, the M2 CS went around the Nürburgring Nordschliefe in 7:42.99.
Over the course of such a long track, the nearly three second difference between the two cars isn’t too much. There are also a lot of variables at play here. For instance, Gebhardt is a great driver but he might not be a as good as Frank Strippler, the pro driver for Audi that set the record lap in the Audi RS3. Even if he is as good, Gebhardt works for Sport Auto, no BMW, and only had a short time to get accustomed to the M2 CS, whereas Strippler works for Audi and knew the RS3 quite intimately; how it behaves at the limit, how far he can push it, and its strengths and weaknesses.
So it’s absolutely possible that Strippler would be able to set a faster lap in the RS3 than Gebhardt could in the M2 CS, just due to familiarity with the cars. Lastly, the Audi RS3 wore slightly more aggressive tires than the M2 CS, a set of bespoke Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R semi-slick tires, versus the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s on the Bimmer.
I’m not saying that the BMW M2 CS is definitely quicker than the Audi RS3 ’round the ‘Ring but there’s certainly some room for debate. There’s no official factory time for the M2 CS at the Nürburgring, only Gebhardt’s time. So it’s all we have to go buy. Which means the Audi RS3 is the fastest but I think it needs an asterisk, as there’s no official time for its toughest competitor. It’s still a monumentally impressive achievement from Audi and I can’t wait to drive the RS3. But it might not actually be the fastest car around the ‘Ring in the segment, it’s just the fastest recorded car.