No, SSC Didn't Fake The Tuatara's Record-Breaking Speed Run

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Whatever controversy exists stems from a mix-up in the video editing room. That's all.

As of right now, it looks as though the SSC Tuatara - the ballistic 1,750-horsepower follow-up to SSC's insanely fast Ultimate Aero - is the new king of speed, with a recorded average top speed of 316.11 mph. We say "average" because the convention here is to average two top-speed runs, one in either direction on the chosen stretch of road, in order to try and account for variables like wind. There's a protocol here.

But some observers have raised doubts as to whether SSC truly followed protocol - whether its speed record is valid at all - expressing skepticism that such a small outfit could best the likes of the Koenigsegg Agera RS and Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+, and by such a margin.

SSC North America
SSC North America
SSC North America

The SSC top speed conspiracy theories seem to have spawned from a couple of YouTube videos examining SSC's top speed run footage and attempting to count the time between markers along the Tuatara's route, comparing that against the speedometer readout and the Agera RS's video on the same stretch of road. It didn't take long for it to spread, a number of Reddit users hopping on the "SSC faked it" bandwagon, holding up the fact that SSC had disabled comments on Instagram as proof positive that the company was hiding something.

But here's the thing: video isn't used for capturing and validating speed records. Advanced telemetry systems are. There's a reason the industry relies on telemetry rather than counting video frames. And SSC itself has responded to the accusations, offering up a detailed explanation of exactly what happened after a thorough investigation of the evidence.

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SSC North America
SSC North America
SSC North America

In essence, SSC says that somehow, two different cockpit videos from the Tuatara's speed record run were released to the public, each with inaccurate info. The videos differ in where the data logger, which displays the vehicle speed, is overlaid, and the difference in sync points accounts for the conflicting records of the run. On October 10, the day of the record run, SSC had cameras literally everywhere - in the cockpit, along the road, and even mounted on a low-flying helicopter - giving the company's video team an absolute mountain of footage to sift through.

The company's intention had been to release just two videos: one from the cockpit, depicting the speed record run with the speed data overlaid in real-time, and one collection of B-roll running footage. But neither was intended to play such a central role in proving the record.

SSC North America
SSC North America

For that, SSC turned to the experts at Dewetron - a leading data acquisition equipment manufacturer - and tracked the Tuatara's speed using 15 satellites, on average, between the two runs. Dewetron wasn't on-site for the record attempt, so they can't vouch for the accuracy of the data until they've had a chance to go over it with a fine-tooth comb; because of Covid, they weren't present to verify that everything was calibrated and set up properly. But Dewetron did send SSC a letter emphasizing the accuracy of their equipment.

Now, SSC is working with its video partner in order to put together a new, more accurate video package showing the Tuatara's actual 316.11 mph average speed runs, although they haven't offered a date for when that can be expected.

SSC also delivered us a mountain of data to help reinforce trust in the company's claims, including gear ratios, theoretical top speed for each gear, the aerodynamic drag coefficient, tire specs and pressure - the whole shebang.

SSC North America
SSC North America
SSC North America

They note that the Tuatara would have needed 1,473 horsepower to reach 311 mph, taking into account the air density, drivetrain efficiency, vehicle mass, and rolling resistance of its Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

Again, the Tuatara produces 1,750 horsepower, giving the car a bit of overhead.

A couple more corroborating data points: during the run, driver Oliver Webb was traveling at 236 mph in fifth when he shifted to sixth at 7,700 rpm, SSC says, which agrees almost exactly with the company's published gear ratio data. And in reaching 331.1 mph, Webb hit 8,600 rpm near the top of sixth gear, which gels with SSC's calculated sixth gear top speed of 333.4 mph at 8,800 rpm.

Of course, nothing's set in stone until Guinness World Records looks at the data and gives the Tuatara's 316.11 mph average top speed the rubber stamp of approval, but from where we sit, it seems there's no good reason to doubt the record.

SSC North America
SSC North America

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