It’s a shame, really, that this race to 300mph is being tainted with so much controversy, because it’s distracting all involved from the fact that doing five miles a minute in a car is genuinely awesome. And yes, we know Bugatti has already claimed an incredible 304.9mph in a Chiron, but that 2019 run didn’t have any independent verification. Hennessey is promising 300mph from the Venom F5 but not yet delivered; Koenigsegg looks really close to getting there; and then there was the SSC Tuatara fiasco of 2020, when GPS info for a 316mph average didn’t tally with the video released. Which is when everyone left their pram.
SSC North America is back, however, determined to prove that its 1,750hp hypercar really is capable of what they say it is. It’s done another top speed run, this time at the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds (part of the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida) and, crucially, with all sorts of people and stuff to ensure the big numbers are reliable ones.
Specifically, that meant a Racelogic technician attending the event, fitting two VBox GNSS systems and a Life Racing GPS for full belt-and-braces approach to data. ‘Independent analyst’ Robert Mitchell was also there.
Once more the Tuatara was driven by customer (and now part-time development driver, it seems) Larry Caplin, all the way to 295mph. Which the video and the data-logging equipment validates, this time without issue. Indeed the biggest issue with the run appears to have been a lack of space; there’s just 2.3 miles of runway to use at Johnny Bohmer, so presumably the magic triple ton would have been possible with some more room.
That’s the view of Robert Mitchell, too, though he’s very enthusiastic for an independent analyst. “I think this car is a 300 car all day. The sheer acceleration at these high numbers above 250, 260, even into the 280s, it’s hands down the fastest car that I have seen. The acceleration is there, the top end is there, and I believe that this is the only car that I know of right now that can be verified running 300, especially in such a short distance.”
Interestingly, SSC claimed that the Tuatara retained what it calls a “perfect aerodynamic balance” of 37 per cent front and 63 per cent rear from 150mph all the way to 295, which it says ensure “precision downforce” across all four wheels. A drag co-efficient of 0.279 will have certainly helped it carve through the air, along with, y’know, almost 2,000hp.
And, credit where credit is due here, the SSC looks supremely stable throughout the whole run, not requiring any correction even above 250mph; the biggest disturbances come from the gearchanges. It almost looks like this speed could be done on an autobahn, such is the ability to track straight and true (not that we’re condoning it, before anyone says anything).
SSC North America CEO Jerod Shelby said of the latest run: “As we’ve learned more about the potential of the Tuatara and have become more comfortable with what it can achieve, we have faced new learning curves. October 2020’s initial high-speed test was one of those moments. After coming to terms with realizing the errors made in our execution of that record attempt, we have learned a great deal not only in bolstering our data acquisition, but re-evaluating how we can be more transparent with the community on this journey to accomplish great things.” They’re not stopping here, basically, having come so close. All SSC needs, it would seem, is a longer runway…
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