No Smoke No Poke

Revo VW Transporter T5 breaks Nurburgring lap record set by Sabine Schmitz

20th June 2013 | BY Adam

You may remember back in 2009 when Sabine Shmitz set the Nurburgring lap record for a commercial vehicle on an episode of Top Gear. She expertly piloted a standard Ford Transit van around the ring in 10:08 whilst following a Dodge Viper for increased aero. Last week we headed out to the hallowed Grüne Hölle with Revo and their lightly modified Volkswagen Transporter  T5 van to see if they couldn’t shake things up a little…

[Click here to jump straight to the lap record video]

Last month Revo were approached by who were looking for ways to promote their customised T5 vans. After a series of conference calls, meetings and Photoshop mock ups, the decision was made…to build a van that is both all show AND all go.

Enter the T5

It’s all well and good tuning a van and adding a body kit with some flashy decals, but in all honesty there’s going to be plenty of nay-sayers asking “What’s the point?”. Rather than have to explain themselves, justifying their decisions and convincing people that a van CAN be as fun to drive as a modified hot hatch, Revo decided it would be easier to simply show why this all makes sense.

Enter the record attempt

For years the Nurburgring Nordschleife has been the proving ground of choice for car manufacturers around the world. Considered to be the holy grail for motorsports enthusiasts across the world, the 12.9 miles of asphalt ebs and flows through the hillside forests of Nurburg, making it one of the most spectacular and exciting race tracks for drivers and spectators alike.

In 2009 Sabine Schmitz demonstrated her driving prowess by taking a Ford Transporter van around the ‘Ring in just over 10 minutes, after betting Jeremy Clarkson she could lap a van faster than he could lap a Jaguar S type. In the end she didn’t manage to get the sub-10 second time she’d predicted, but inadvertently she set a lap record for a commercial vehicle. Schmitz didn’t know it yet, but at that moment, the gauntlet had been thrown down. It seemed then that this challenge made perfect sense, to get the T5 to lap faster than Schmitz’ Transporter.

This was no carte blanche though and the goal wasn’t to build a race van, given that it would need to drive from Revo HQ in Daventry all the way to the Nurburgring, round the track a few times and then back again. The journey to and from the ‘Ring would also see the van fully laden with the team’s gear, spares, cases and our camera equipment. A trailer queen this van is not.

The build

The modifications were relatively simple:

- Revo ECU remap taking the stock 2.0l bi-turbo diesel from 180bhp to 220bhp
- Forge intercooler and oil cooler
- Milltek de-cat and DPF deleted un-silenced exhaust
- Bilstein B14 coilovers
- 18″ Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.3 wheels with Dunlop Direzza tyres.

Whilst there’s no way that Revo can claim this is a ‘standard’ van, we know plenty of people running more comprehensive upgrades than this in their road cars, who wouldn’t consider them as “track prepped” so chasing Sabine’s time in the T5 is in our opinion still (just about) acceptable…plus there were no Dodge Vipers to slipstream on the lap.

The Mission

Starting out on Monday morning we began our epic 490 mile journey across four countries to the Nurburgring. With the T5 fully laden, we headed off to the port with the “Shit Rocket” (Revo’s 380bhp Sirocco) and STaSIS Q5 in tow. There really was no contingency if things went a Pete Tong, that van was as much the support vehicle to the other two cars as they were to it.

One of my favourite things about the Revo T5 is the sound it makes, thanks to the custom Milltek exhaust. It’s essentially a 3.5″ straight through pipe from the turbo back, with a couple of exhaust tips welded on at the end and it sounds MENTAL. This provided us with enough entertainment as we whipped down the M1 to kill off the first leg of the journey in no time at all, arriving at Dover with time to spare before our boat. On the road, the van drives exceptionally well. Even full loaded it pulled hard thanks to the additional torque and new found ponies under the bonnet. I’d argue that it was actually more comfortable to be in over a long distance than the Sirocco, the ride was certainly more compliant. I found that you did have to stir the gearbox more than I’m used to in the NSNP Leon, but it doesn’t detract from the driving experience, in fact it makes it slightly more involved because you have to consider your gear selection more carefully to squeeze every drop of torque and power from the bi-turbo lump.

Not content with the three hours of driving we’d already done, of course we smashed out a few laps of Sega Rally on the crossing.

En France and En Route to Nurburg, the T5 made light work of the remaining 300 miles and by the time we arrived at our hotel the fuel guage was reading just under 1/4 tank left - nice to see the remap and breather mods hadn’t affected the mpgs.

We had a fairly relaxed schedule for Tuesday, needing only to empty the van and swap the road wheels for the 18″ Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.3 / Dunlop Direzza track combo, then head to the drivers briefing to sign on for the two days racing.

The weather at the Nurburgring is quite peculiar, going from glorious sunshine to grey skies and rain then back again within the hour. Because it’s up in the hills, surrounded by forest the track has it’s own micro-climate, meaning sometimes that whilst slicks may be the tyre choice for one section of the track, wets may be more preferable for another. As we took a leisurely drive around the roads surrounding the track, we prayed for good weather come Wednesday morning.

Last stop was a quick trip to the car van wash and we were ready to rock and hopefully not roll.

Luckily for us and the Revo team, we would be handing the T5 over to our tame racing driver in the morning, which meant we could enjoy a couple of Pilsners in the Pistenklause, owned by Sabine’s parents. We did wonder if our booking would have been as welcome if they knew our plans to strip her daughter of the commercial vehicle lap record - so we kept quiet.

The NSNP logo, up there with the greats.


We awoke Wednesday morning to a fairly over cast, but warm day. Breakfast done, we took the van up the road to Rent4Ring, where we would meet Dale Lomas. As well as working at Rent4Ring, a track car rental outfit, Dale also runs the, a Nurburgring lap time website with a cult following. As well as all of that, he’s a ‘Ring instructor so knows his way around the Nordschleife.

Well aware of the internet’s keyboard warriors who may try to call BS on this attempt, Revo weren’t going to settle for anything less than GPS verified results and a Racelogic Video VBox was used to time the T5′s lap.

The VBox is a effectively the black box which records all of the data of the run like the GPS position of the van, speed and lateral and longitudinal G forces from acceleration, braking and cornering. It also records the run via two cameras which we placed forwards and in the cockpit - slightly more high tech than Top Gear’s dash mounted egg timer!

All set up, it was show time…

Dale flashed his drivers wrist bands at the marshals on the gate and set off on his sighting lap. Just over ten minutes later he came thundering down the start/finish straight with the T5 pinned at full throttle, our team radios were crackling away with a buzz of excitement from our spotters at various corners of the track: “That van is FLYING!”, “He’s just overtaken a BMW!” - we were tense and excited.

Only three laps later, with no tracking vehicle to follow, Dale pulled in to the paddock so the team could check the van over before sending him back out to chase the record. However, unbelievably, on replaying the VBOX details he had already broken the magic 10 minute mark on his third lap out- clocking a record setting full lap (not just the bridge to gantry loop) at 9.57.38. After checking out the time stamps from the video, the T5 did the equivalent bridge to gantry lap in a staggering 9:22, knocking 46 seconds off Sabine’s previous record.

Check out the full lap video below:

It was at that point that we had to make a difficult decision, as Dale thought he could go even quicker. Tyres were looking good and even the standard brakes were holding up fairly well considering the abuse they were being given. But on the other hand, this van was the ride home for two of us as well as all of our spares and gear. Dale could push a bit harder, but with each additional lap chances of a mishap are increased and having achieved what they set out to do, team Revo decided to call it a day.

Having not had much of a chance to chat with Dale before the lap, I sat him down afterwards and asked him for his thoughts on the T5:

The Aftermath

The trip was a complete success, the van had performed flawlessly and Transporterland and Revo had succeeded in their mission. In the paddock the van stood side by side with Porsche GT3′s, McLaren’s and even a Ferrari race car and stole the limelight from them all. It’s a bit whacky, it’s certainly not to everybody’s taste but it is the fastest commercial vehicle in the World to lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife at the time of writing this feature.

Tongue in cheek this mission was, but I think it’s going to open the flood gates for a number of other tuners and manufacturers perhaps do have a pop at knocking the Revo T5 off the top spot. There will be arguments about the regulations on what modifications are deemed appropriate for breaking this record again, but I hope that it evolves to be a free for all. I have just one stipulation…

Whatever else you do to the van to make it faster…it HAS to be a diesel.

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