Goodbye Bugatti Chiron, it was nice knowing you.
Last week, a local news report claimed that American supercar maker SSC North America attempted a world record speed run in Nevada. CarBuzz can now reveal that those rumors were accurate: SSC did indeed make an attempt to break the 304.77 mph top speed run set by the 2020 Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ with its latest supercar, the Tuatara. With a 5.9-liter twin-turbo V8 from Nelson Racing Engines dishing out 1,750 horsepower, the Tuatara didn't just beat the Chiron; it obliterated it, laying down a top speed over 330 mph!
CarBuzz spoke to SSC CEO Jerod Shelby after the record attempt to talk about the struggles and eventual elation of achieving such a monumental record. To officially claim the world record, SSC needed to set an average on two runs heading in opposite directions, all within an hour of each other.
"Obviously, we've been preparing for this for quite a long time. It's a big process to get a highway shutdown and do all this stuff legally," Shelby explained. "We worked with Nevada DOT to shut down a section of highway 160 near Pahrump, Nevada, which happens to be the same stretch of road that Koenigsegg used back in 2017."
"We didn't use that stretch of road because [Koenigsegg] did," Shelby pointed out, mentioning that there aren't many places on Earth where you can hit these excessive speeds. SSC employed internationally acclaimed professional racing driver Oliver Webb, who previously helped test the Tuatara on the track and collect data. Webb ran a few test runs on some private runways to get comfortable with the car before the record attempt on Saturday, October 10, 2020.
Nevada DOT shut down a seven-mile stretch of State Route 160 for the run. The Tuatara had plenty of space to reach the record, but on the day SSC turned up, there was a worrying crosswind. On the very first run, Webb hit 287 mph. On the second run, though, a blast of crosswind ruined the attempt. "It moved him over a whole lane," Shelby said. "Then he popped a 301.07 mph. So obviously, there was applause because one of our big goals was 300 mph."
At this point, SSC already beat Koenigsegg with an average speed of 293 mph. Shelby sat down in the transporter with Webb, who said, "Jerod, I'm only gonna do one more run. With this wind, it's only going to get worse."
"I want you to be safe. Let's do what you can do," Shelby answered.
SSC set up for one final attempt. Webb blasts the car down to the other end of the road, hops out of the car, and sits with his hands on his face. Shelby, worried at this point, walks up to his racing driver, who gives a thumbs up and says, "I saw the big number on the display." Webb was hit with two huge gusts of wind on that run, but he persisted despite getting knocked out of his lane, twice.
"I went on an emotional roller coaster of 'maybe we didn't even get 300 on run,' because I'm going off of [Webb's] face," Shelby told CarBuzz with clear emotion in his voice. "And so they bring up the data acquisition stuff, and satellite equipment, and it was 331.15," verified by GPS measurements using an average of 15 satellites.
Combining the 331.15 mph (532.93 kph) figure with the 301.07 mph (484.53 kph) run, the SSC Tuatara earned the record of "Fastest Production Vehicle" with a top speed of 316.11 mph 508.73 kph.
After achieving the record, Webb turned to Shelby and said, "the car wasn't the limit. I was the limit."
"There was definitely more in there. And with better conditions, I know we could have gone faster," said Webb. "As I approached 331 mph, the Tuatara climbed almost 20 mph within the last five seconds. It was still pulling well. As I told Jerod, the car wasn't running out of steam yet. The crosswinds are all that prevented us from realizing the car's limit."
SSC may attempt to set a new record on a different day with less crosswind, but it's comforting for the company to know that the Tuatara has more left in it, just in case Bugatti or Koenigsegg get any ideas about reclaiming the record. In addition to the Fastest Production Car record, the Tuatara also broke the following records: "Fastest Flying Mile on a Public Road" at 313.12 mph (503.92 kph), "Fastest Flying Kilometer on a Public Road" at 321.35 mph (517.16 kph), and "Highest Speed Achieved on a Public Road" at 331.15 mph (532.93 kph).
This is a huge achievement for SSC. And it proves that with American ingenuity, David can defeat Goliath.