Nardo / Wolfsburg. Volkswagen took a prototype of its W12 sports car to the Nardo high-speed circuit near Lecce in Southern Italy on February 23 and 24, and again beat the existing world 24-hour speed record. This exceptional sports car design, with a top speed of 350 km/h, covered a distance of 7,749.4 kilometres at an average speed of 322.89 km/h.
The world record set up only shortly before, on October 14, 2001 with the same car, was beaten by 27.7 km/h, with the car covering 663 kilometres more. This improvement is due to the remarkable reliability of the 440 kW (600 bhp) twelve-cylinder engine, to further development work on the car itself and to its highly motivated crew. A version of the same engine with an output of 309 kW (420 bhp) will power the new Phaeton W12 luxury saloon model that is to have its world première early in March at the Geneva Motor Show.
In parallel with this ultimate speed record, the seven-strong team of drivers also took five more world records and twelve international class records according to the official rules drawn up by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) for such attempts, and subject to its approval. It amounts to a sensation that the twelve most important class records for distance and time in the segment for prototypes with normally aspirated engines of up to 8,000 cc (category A, group II, class 10) ó the class for supersport models ó are all held now by a single manufacturer ó Volkswagen. This is a situation that has never occurred before.
The world record statistics kept by the FIA reveal a further sensational situation: in the category concerned, Volkswagen holds seven of the twelve world records. Six of them were set up with the W 12 sports car prototype and one back in 1980 with the ëAR VW’ (AR = Aero Research), an aerodynamically optimised experimental vehicle. The twelve-cylinder coupé only failed by a tiny margin to capture the eighth world record last Sunday: its average speed over 500 miles was 327.39 km/h, precisely 2.88 km/h more than the old record. However, the FIA rules call for the new record to be at least one percent above the old figure, which would have meant averaging 327.76 km/h: a scarcely noticeable difference of 0.37 km/h. As a result, the class record is actually higher than the world record.
For all these international class records and world records, average speeds of more than 320 km/h (200 mph) were maintained, with the result that the records set up by the same car last October were surpassed. At that session in the autumn of 2001, Volkswagen’s prototype established three world records and six international class records. In the words of Dr. Ulrich Eichhorn, the Volkswagen Group’s Research Manager: “The record-breaking runs are an example of perfect cooperation within an experienced international team of technicians and drivers, and the result of engineering practice that admirably demonstrates the supreme performance and reliability of our new W 12 engine.”