– by Jay Ramey
There’s “slow car fast,” and then there’s “slow French diesel car fast”…on the Nürburgring, no less. The car in question is the Citroën AX, a hatchback purpose-built for fuel economy in the 1980s, with mpg figures so good, the car’s visage still gives the Prius engineering team nightmares.
Now the AX is giving us nightmares thanks to this video showing the little French oil burner being driven to the extreme of its power and handling envelope by one very dedicated owner. Watch this lap unfold and then tell us your palms weren’t sweating.
The hero driver (anonymous, like all true heroes) pushes the little AX hatch hard, evidently choosing to forgo a roll cage for the sake of weight savings. That’s dedication and bravery, as we’re not sure we’d take on the Nürburgring with nothing but a thin sweatshirt for safety gear.
His feat has reportedly been seven years in the making, and the French driver appears to have spent many a night in the back of the AX near the ‘Ring, picking away at a sub-10-second lap bit by bit in the daytime. The driver claims to have run a total of 118 laps before he achieved the perfect run, going through five engines and even a greater number of transmissions in the process.
Released upon the world in 1986, the AX looked like it came flat-packed from IKEA, but despite its boxy shape the body boasted a 0.31 coefficient of drag. Paired with fuel-sipping engines starting with a 1.0-liter inline-four, it sold like the French equivalent of hotcakes (macaroons?).
The version here is a 1993 AX 14 featuring a 1.4-liter inline-four diesel making 52 hp and a whopping 61 lb-ft of torque, with a factory 0-62 mph time of 14.3 seconds.This effort reminds us of Sabine Schmitz’s bet with Jeremy Clarkson that she could lap the ‘Ring in a Ford Transit van in less than 10 minutes. Spoiler: Schmitz couldn’t do it, but we never thought that a little Citroën AX diesel making fewer horsepower than some of today’s motorcycles could come anywhere close to that figure, either. No doubt Schmitz would be impressed by this Citroën driver’s dedication.