SSC North America has smashed the world record for the fastest production car using the 1,750hp Tuatara, which reached a peak of 331mph after two runs on a closed Nevada desert highway. Driven by Brit WEC racer Oliver Webb, the twin-turbocharged V8 machine reached 301mph and then 331mph in the opposite direction, giving it an official average of 316mph. Which, you may have already calculated, is 12mph more than that Andy Wallace-driven Bugatti Chiron managed in 2019. Blimey.
The Tuatara set the record on the State Route 160 between Las Vegas and Pahrump, and puts SSC back at the top of the pile for the first time since its 255.83mph Ultimate Aero was beaten by a 279.9mph averaging Koenigsegg in 2017. Things have certainly moved on leaps and bounds since then, but it’s nice to know that the motive force behind it all is still generated by internal combustion - in this case a bespoke twin-turbo 5.9-litre V8 with a flat-plane crank.
It produces its best on E85 fuel (with the US’s 91-octane grade it develops a measly 1,350hp). As shown in onboard footage of the run, the V8 asks its seven-speed robotised manual for an upshift into top gear at 234mph, and, according to Webb, was capable of far more than its 316mph average. The ByKolles LMP1 racer was apparently hindered by cross winds, yet said that as he approached 331 mph, “the Tuatara climbed almost 20mph within the last five seconds”. He reckoned “the car wasn’t running out of steam yet”.
The carbon fibre-monocoque model ran with its road legal and (as you’d expect) SSC-specific Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, around 20-inch wheels. Those who remember when Bugatti’s top speed runs were limited by the rubber, rather than the engine, will appreciate just how far things have come in recent years. We’ve not been given the numbers for the Tuatara, but to give some indication, Bugatti said that the Chiron’s earlier record saw its wheels and tyres subjected to 5,300G of force.
Along with its V-max record, SSC’s mid-engined monster also nabbed the ‘Fastest Flying Mile on a Public Road’ record of 313.12mph, ‘Fastest Flying Kilometre on a Public Road’ at 517.16kmh and ‘Highest Speed Achieved on a Public Road’ at 331.15mph. Suffice it to say anyone hoping to challenge the Tuatara and its latest benchmark haul will have their work cutout. But don't expect that to put anyone off...
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