McLaren F1

Tesla Model 3 Performance Beats McLaren F1 Time Record At Iconic Japanese Track


A Tesla Model 3 Performance with modifications from Unplugged Performance has beaten a McLaren F1’s lap record in Japan’s iconic Tsukuba circuit. The street-tuned Model 3 Ascension-R lap time was 1:03.3 with driver Ken Negoro behind the wheel. In comparison, the McLaren F1’s record lap time was 1:04.6 with Naomi Hattori at the helm. 

The Model 3 that challenged the McLaren F1 at the Tsukuba circuit was no ordinary Tesla. It was Tesla owner and enthusiast Erik Strait’ s—from YouTube channel DAErik—modified Model 3. In a previous report, Tesmanian stated that Strait’s car was raised to 11, and it appears we weren’t wrong based on its impressive run on the Tsukuba circuit.

World-renowned automotive customizer Unplugged Performance customized Strait’s Model 3. It was fitted with Unplugged’s Tesla Model 3 Ascension-R package. After showing the car at SEMA in 2019, Unplugged took the car to Japan in January 2020, where it was shown at the Tokyo Auto Salon. Tesla Japan supported Unplugged’s efforts.

In February, Strait’s Model 3 ran the Tsukuba circuit. With driver Ken Negoro behind the wheel, the modified Performance Model 3 participated in an open track day event. Negoro is not a professional driver, but he is skilled and tracks his tuned Honda Civic at the Tsukuba circuit. He had never driven a Tesla before getting into Unplugged’s street-tuned Model 3 Performance and beating the lap record of a McLaren F1.

Even after beating a McLaren F1 at Japan’s iconic Tsukuba circuit, Unplugged Performance believes its Ascension-R Model 3 could do better. The renowned customizer stated that it felt the modified Model 3 could have done 1:02.5 at Tsukuba if the weather was better that day.

Unplugged Performance CEO Ben Schaffer shared that the Model 3 could have reached a time of 1:02.5 if Negoro had more seat time. Less than 30 minutes of driving was given to the Unplugged team, and the weather was in near-freezing conditions in February.

Schaffer also shared that the Model could have run a time of 1:01 with semi-slick DOT legal tires or reached 0:59 with stripped interiors and racing slicks.

The Unplugged team suggested that another second or two would have been shaved off the Model 3 Performance’s time with Tesla’s new Track Mode V2 software update. With Unplugged’s expertise in the field and Tesla’s innovation, the Model 3 truly become more than a daily driver on the Tsukuba circuit.

Unplugged Performance's Ben Schaffer talked about Tesla and its track-capable EVs during the Third Row Podcast recently. Halfway through the podcast episode, the topic of Track Mode and its significance was brought up. Schaffer and Third Row member Omar Qazi explained that features and capabilities like Track Mode V2 allow Tesla to appeal to hardcore driving and car enthusiasts.

After all, owning a car is a way of life for some people. For some, cars are a fun hobby, while to others it’s a passion. During his talk with the Third Row crew, Schaffer even related driving to meditation due to the focus and mental state it requires.

A Tesla’s ability to go from daily driver to a cool performance vehicle widens the EV automaker’s reach and appeal. Teslas show that going electric doesn’t mean cars can’t be fun anymore. As Unplugged Performance showed in the Tsukuba Circuit, Tesla vehicles are just as fun—or maybe even more—than the average fossil fuel supercar. 

Featured Image Credit: Unplugged Performance/YouTube

About the Author

Claribelle Deveza

Claribelle Deveza

Longtime writer and news/book editor. Writing about Tesla allows me to contribute something good to the world, while doing something I love.

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