SSC does its homework; Tuatara hits 295 mph

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SSC North America

American hypercar company SSC North America has reached another milestone in its continuing pursuit of straight-line speed records. Larry Caplin, the owner of the first Tuatara hypercar, reached a top speed of 295 mph in chassis #001 on a 2.3-mile stretch of runway known as the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds at Space Florida’s LLF, Kennedy Space Center in Merritt, Florida. The data was verified through dual Racelogic VBOX GNSS systems onboard the Tuatara, both of which were set up by Mitchell Townsend, a technician from the data-logging firm.

That last bit is important. In October of 2020, SSC announced that the Tuatara had reached 331.15 mph during a pass on a seven-mile stretch of highway near Pahrump, Nevada. But in the ensuing weeks, internet skeptics questioned the accuracy of the data, and the clamor eventually prompted SSC CEO Jarrod Shelby to announce that the firm would re-run the record attempt and take extra measures to prove its validity. For this most recent run, in May of 2022, SSC brought along a technician from the data-logging company whose devices SSC would use.

(SSC did re-attempt the 331-mph record in January of 2021. The Tuatara achieved an independently verified 282.9-mph two-way average at the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds, eclipsing the Koenigsegg Agera RS’ 277.87. That said, the Tuatara’s record hasn’t officially unseated the Agera’s in the Guinness World Record book.)

There’s no denying that 295 mph in a production car is bonkers, but keep a few things in mind: This was a one-way, northbound pass, not a two-way averaged run. That means that it it is ineligible for Guinness World Record verification, whose rules stipulate that a car must attempt two passes in opposing directions with a one-hour timeframe. The same rules exclude the 304.77 mph achieved by a Bugatti Chiron, a pre-production model modified with a roll cage and different seats. (Bugatti also disconnected the speed limiter.) Since the Chiron isn’t available for purchase in precisely that specification, Guinness won’t include it. You can make the argument the Chiron fulfills the criteria in spirit, but you’re swimming in a gray area.

What’s crystal-clear is this: Based on the remarks from Shelby, Townsend, and Robert Mitchell—a leading voice in the skepticism for that fateful 331-mph Pahrump run and a third party invited by Shelby to attend all subsequent record attempts—the Tuatara still had plenty left to give on May 14, 2022. It simply ran out of runway. “The sheer rate of acceleration that the Tuatara was producing all the way through 295 mph really told us that this car is not even close to reaching its ceiling,” says Shelby. “The limiting factor wasn’t the car, but the fact that we ran out of runway.”

There’s a big difference between getting a hypercar like the Tuatara from a dead stop, up to 295, and back down to zero safely in 2.3 miles versus, say, the 7-mile stretch in Nevada. Racelogic’s Mitchell Townsend echoes Shelby’s sentiments: “What was most impressive to me was how it kept going through fifth, sixth, seventh gear,” he says.

We’d bet that if there’s another attempt in the works, that stretch of highway in Pahrump is a likely venue. It’s not a reach to expect the SSC team to prepare for a two-way pass, hopefully eclipsing the 500 kilometer-per-hour (310.69 mph) mark that has been its goal since the Tuatara’s inception almost half a decade ago.

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