Tesla Model 3 Performance with Track Mode beats a Ferrari’s record in closed circuit test

[Credit: Motor Trend]

Around six weeks ago, the Tesla Model 3 Performance squared off against the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio and the Jaguar I-PACE EV400 around the “Streets” of Willow Springs International Raceway in CA. The track tests, which were conducted by auto publication Motor Trend, ended with the Model 3 Performance falling short of the Giulia Quadrifoglio’s lap times, despite being loaded with a pre-release version of Track Mode.

The loss of the Model 3 Performance to the Alfa Romeo was taken very seriously by Tesla. Over the past six weeks, the man who drove all three vehicles — professional racecar driver and journalist Randy Pobst — worked with Tesla in refining the features and quirks of Track Mode. These refinements were rolled out in the feature’s “release version” that started rolling out yesterday. Compared to the initial iteration of Track Mode that took on the I-PACE EV400 and the Giulia Quadrifoglio, the feature’s “release version” was more refined and tempered, thanks to valuable input from Pobst, a racecar driver who honed his driving skills over decades of experience.

Needless to say, the improvements to the Model 3 Performance’s capabilities were notable. In a recent test back at the Streets of Willow Springs, Randy Pobst took the Model 3 Performance with its “release version” of Track Mode around the circuit. This time around, Tesla equipped the high-performance electric sedan with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, which are 10mm wider than the 235/35-20 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires that the vehicle was equipped with when it ran the track six weeks ago. During its initial test under the hands of the professional driver, the Model 3 Performance lapped the track in 1:23.90. Equipped with Track Mode’s “release version,” the electric sedan completed the same course in 1:21.49.

That time pretty much matches the record of the 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4, and is far quicker than the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio’s 1:22.78 lap. Perhaps more remarkable was that the Model 3 Performance’s new record in the Willow Springs Streets actually ended up beating one of Motor Trend‘s Best Driver’s Car winners in the past — the 2011 Ferrari 458 Italia, which completed the course in 1:22.30.

Later relating his experience with the Model 3 Performance and its refined Track Mode, Randy Pobst noted that the release version of the feature makes the vehicle hook far better on the road.

“That prototype version of Track mode a few weeks ago was inconsistent. I had this distinct impression of approaching a corner flat-out and thinking, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen?’ But this one (with the updated software) is far, far better. One thing we did was reduce the regenerative braking at lower speed. There’s naturally less of it at higher speeds because the battery can’t absorb that rate of power. But the last time we were out here, the car kept slowing down a lot when I’d lift off the accelerator; they showed me the data, and it’s about 0.3 g of deceleration. The trouble is that I’m a trail-braker, and it’s adding that strong brake force while I’m turning. Now it’s less, more like a normal car’s engine braking. This is a huge step forward.

“At first there was too much front regen, which made it pushy on the entry phase, so they shifted it to the back. There’s a tremendous amount of torque here (450 hp and 471 lb-ft of torque), so the car can be slid around a little bit—but actually not that much because the front motor comes back in and balances everything out. At the apex, it has a little bit of initial power oversteer from the rear motor, then it fixes itself and wants to power understeer. We made some progress on refining all that. I tried the car on the Pilot Sport Cup 2s and Brembo pads, and it was really hooked up.”

Tesla has started rolling out the “release version” of the Model 3 Performance’s Track Mode through an over-the-air update. Thanks to the tuning expertise of a racing veteran and Tesla’s mastery of custom-built software, the upcoming Track Mode update would essentially transform the company’s fleet of Model 3 Performance vehicles into monsters on the track. With the release version of Track Mode now enabled, the Model 3 Performance had all but climbed to the apex of the high-performance sedan arena. And it lies there, in silence, waiting for its next challenger.

Tesla Model 3 Performance with Track Mode beats a Ferrari’s record in closed circuit test
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