Tuned Tesla Model S Plaid sets new lap record for EV cars at Laguna Seca

Tuning and modifying electric cars are now a thing, as a Tesla Model S Plaid tuned by California’s Unplugged Performance laps the legendary Laguna Seca circuit faster than a Porsche 911 GT2 RS

Photos: Unplugged Performance


Benchmarks are set to be broken. Not too long after the Porsche Taycan was launched, electric car maverick Tesla went about with both fists swinging to build an electric sports car that could set a tangible record.

The result was fast-tracking of the Tesla Plaid drivetrain, first tried in a Tesla Model S. The brand is light on details about how it works, but the basics are: a triple motor drive, 0-100km/h in under two seconds, a top speed of more than 300km/h and a peak power output of 1,020 horsepower. 

If you’ve never heard of Unplugged Performance, it’s time to sit up and take notice. It’s a electric vehicle tuner based in California specialising in souping up Teslas with chassis upgrades for sportier handling. 

The engineers have taken a Tesla Model S Plaid, given it race car aero, brakes, and suspension, and christened it Dark Helmet, after the goofy Darth Vader parody character played by Rick Moranis from the movie Spaceballs.

On 3rd August 2021, with highly experienced racing driver Randy Pobst in the driver’s seat, Dark Helmet lapped Laguna Seca, arguably the USA’s most famous road-racing track, in a time of 1m 28.21s. That’s just 0.1 seconds quicker than a Porsche 911 GT2 RS, and as of now officially the Tesla Model S Plaid is the fastest production EV around the track. 

Dark Helmet will eventually have another target in its sights though, as the car’s lap time is just 0.6 seconds slower than the all-time production car lap record set by the McLaren Senna, as driven by Randy Pobst himself.

Yet there’s the matter of how the lap times were set. As you can see, the Tesla Model S Plaid driven by Pobst doesn’t look anything like a production car. It’s got full race car aerodynamics, adjustable suspension from Bilstein and super sticky tyres from Yokohama. While it has 1,000+ horsepower, four-wheel drive and torque vectoring, it also has to deal with its porky 2.2-tonne mass, while almost all other fast cars weigh in at under 1,500kg.

We know Teslas are fast, and going from the queues at the brand’s new showroom in Singapore, also attract massive attention, but going fast in a straight line and being able to tread all the curves on a race track are two different matters. Unplugged Performance has given the Model S Plaid plenty of tuning for it to go this quickly so there will be many who will question the car’s ‘production EV record’, but this practice of fudging facts and rules is actually nothing new.

Porsche and Nissan have long been at loggerheads about what can be classed as usable parts on a road-legal production car with their 911 Turbo and GT-R coupes trading fast lap times in testing. Accusations of cheating have flown between the two automotive giants for years, and once this electric performance car business starts to pick up momentum worldwide, we can expect similar entertainment here as well. 

about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.