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Supercheap Auto Racing's V8 Supercar racer takes on the world's fastest four-door production car in a drag race of historic proportions.
In this gig, we motoring journos are often driven to pitch story ideas that we know will never get off the ground. It's a built-in compulsion. So, when we asked the lads at Supercheap Auto Racing if they'd be interested in a drag race, we didn't think there'd be much chance of it ever happening.
Imagine our surprise when the answer was an enthusiastic and unequivocal 'yes'.
Not only were they up for the challenge, the Supercheap Auto Racing team, which competes in the V8 Supercars Championship (Australia's premier motorsport category), even offered to provide a track: Victoria's Winton Raceway.
That's not all, though. Pulling out all the stops, the team also agreed to bring their ace driver, Tim Slade, and his 650hp+ Holden Commodore V8 Supercar.
His challenger? The world's fastest four-door sedan.
You may be surprised to hear that it's not a supercharged or turbocharged V8 or V10 monster — it's the fully electric Tesla Model S P85D with Insane Mode (recently superseded by the Model S P90D and Ludicrous Mode).
The Model S P85D pushes out a mind-numbing combined 567kW of power (that's over 750hp) and claims to sprint from 0-100km/h in just 3.3 seconds (although the best we could manage in our earlier Model S drag race was 3.5 seconds).
The Supercheap Auto Racing V8 Supercar, on the other hand, produces over 480kW of power and promises a 0-100km/h sprint time - in perfect conditions - of 3.4-seconds.
The V8 Supercar has a weight benefit, coming in at just 1400kg with next to no interior, where the Model S P85D tips the scales at over 2000kg, but has the benefit of all-wheel drive.
Of course, you can't drive a track-specified V8 Supercar on the road. So, we wanted to get the help of the fastest series-production four-door sedan built in Australia, the HSV GTS. For good measure, we decided on an example with a bit more pep in its step, so we enlisted the help of Walkinshaw Performance.
Enter, the Walkinshaw Performance W507, a tuned version of the HSV GTS that both looks and sounds the part. Driven by a menacing 507kW (680hp) 6.2-litre supercharged V8, the W507 promises a 0-100km/h time of just just over 4.0 seconds.
So, the challenge was set: the world's fastest four-door sedan against the fastest Australian-built four-door sedans.
The first drag race was the Walkinshaw Performance W507 against the Tesla Model S P85D. At the start line, all I could hear was my colleague Dave revving the big brute, releasing an intoxicating dose of supercharger whine and exhaust noise.
With a six-speed automatic gearbox, Dave couldn't merely stand on the throttle — the 850Nm on tap would cause the rear tyres to erupt into tyre smoke. Instead, he'd need to ease on the throttle before standing on it for the 400-ish metre straight.
My job is easier. With the car in Insane Mode (the maximum current draw from the batteries) and creep set to 'off', all I would need to do is let go of the pedals and hit the loud pedal for its full complement of torque. The Model S P85D is capable of churning over 1150Nm of torque through all four wheels, so it certainly has the technical advantage off the line.
As our race starter drops his hands, we both get on to the throttle. The Model S P85D rockets ahead in the first 100 metres, blitzing Dave while he grapples for traction. By around half way, I can see Dave gaining on me as the fully-electric Tesla tapers off.
It's not enough though, as we reach the finish line and I complete the sprint some four car lengths ahead of Dave.
The stupendous acceleration off the line causes your whole body to be shoved back into the seat as the Tesla gains traction, eating up the space (and time) in front of it. The relentless push starts slowing after around 100km/h, but by this point I'd secured the win.
Still, that first run had me worried. If a supercharged V8 road car was chomping at the bit, how would a full-blown race car with slick tyres go?
As Slade performed his warm up laps around the track, I was blown away by the noise. The side exhaust outlets emit an almighty roar with each gear change. The naturally-aspirated 5.0-litre V8 engine uses a Holden 308 cast iron block, control cam shafts and an aluminium dry sump. The interior is entirely stripped out and features Slade's race seat, a whole bunch of flashing lights and three pedals.
The gearbox is a trick six-speed sequential transaxle with an integrated spool differential and a triple-plate carbon 7 and 1/4 inch clutch. The giant AP Racing brakes measure 395mm up front and 355mm at the rear, operating at up to 900 degrees Celsius under race conditions. On top of that, the car weighs just 1400kg with Slade on board — bearing a near-1000kg weight saving over the Model S P85D.
Slade's car must be switched off at idle because it has no engine fan, and if it were to stay running, the team could risk damaging the engine. As we line up to race, Slade fires up the V8 Supercar. To say I was a little nervous would be an understatement.
The Model S is dead silent, so all I can hear is Slade revving the car. Just before the countdown starts, Slade sets the vehicle's launch parameters. A manual brake operates to hold the vehicle as Slade climbs the engine to its perfect rev band.
As our race-starter counts down to zero, Slade drops the brake and releases the clutch to rocket away from the line. Slade's cold tyres see him struggles with traction off the line, as I charge forward in the Model S P85D.
Just before the half way marker I realise I have a clear lead over the V8 Supercar. But, it wasn't over yet.
As Slade builds speed and locks in full traction, he begins reeling in the electric Tesla. By the three-quarter marker I scan my rear-vision mirror to find Slade just metres behind me.
We smash past the finish line with the Tesla ahead by a tight two car lengths. As I hit the brakes — by this point I'm travelling at almost 170km/h, some 47 metres per second — Slade's V8 Supercar rockets past me, taking the racing line for the first corner.
It's at this point that I realise the fury and power under the bonnet of the V8 Supercar. The mentally loud machine sounds like it's sitting in my dash as Slade gears down with backfires to match.
We end our drag race at the finish line chatting about the experience. Slade was blown away by the pace on offer from the Tesla Model S P85D. We all thought that with an extra 50m or so, the V8 Supercar would probably have the win.
But, it goes to show how totally incredible the Model S P85D is from a straight-line speed point of view. It has the goods to take on almost any road car and, as we've seen, a full-blown race car.
The guys at Supercheap Auto Racing want a rematch though — this time with a longer straight.
What do you think? Should we get a Ludicrous Mode Model S P90D and give them an extra 100m?
Read our review of the 2016 Tesla Model S P85D here and watch a drag race between the Model S P85 and the P85D here. Read more about the Walkinshaw Performance W507 here.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.
Videography by Igor Solomon.