With the Tuatara’s original top speed attempt tarnished by controversy, SSC North America had no other way but to redo the run. In an attempt to clear up any accusations about tampering with the video footage of the original run that took place last October, the hypercar marque now claims it has legitimately set a new top speed record during a second official run.
Rather than going back to the Nevada State Route 160 where the first attempt took place, SSC gained access to the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds at Space Florida's Shuttle Landing Facility. We’ve covered our fair share of top speed runs that took place at the former Space Shuttle runway in Florida, but no other car has gone faster than the Tuatara.
Gallery: SSC Tuatara averages 282.9 mph at the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds
While SSC hired professional racing driver Oliver Webb for the first top speed run, the second attempt was done on January 17, 2021 by the owner of this car. Dr. Larry Caplin only had 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) to experience the Tuatara’s intense acceleration, managing to hit an impressive 244 mph (393 km/h) after just one mile.
To qualify for a record-breaking attempt, the Tuatara did two runs in opposite directions. It managed to reach 279.7 mph (450.1 km/h) northbound and 286.1 mph (460.4 km/h) southbound, resulting in an average velocity of 282.9 mph (455.2 km/h). Towards the end of the southbound run, SSC says the car needed 2.87 seconds to accelerate from 274 to 286 mph (441 to 460 km/h). From 0 to 286 mph, the Tuatara covered only 1.9 miles (3 kilometers).
The man behind the wheel says he “got a taste of full power in the top of seventh on the last run” and is eager to come back and try to hit the magical 300-mph mark. It’s unclear when the next attempt will take place, but it seems SSC is not done with these top speed runs just yet.
The New Speed King?
Not that there are many cars that can do 275 mph (443 km/h), but engine builder Tom Nelson says the SSC Tuatara at 275 mph is "accelerating ten times faster than any other production car in the world." As you may recall, Nelson Racing Engines developed the hypercar’s twin-turbo 5.9-liter engine, a flat-plane-crank V8 that develops 1,750 horsepower on E85 and 1,350 hp on 91 octane.
Jerod Shelby, CEO of SSC North America, explains the differences between the two attempts:
"We took a different approach this time in accelerating the car to the higher speeds. Larry Caplin, who owns the car, used a 'drag race' style of acceleration during the record runs, pulling full throttle and boost for 40-50 seconds. Back in October we were leaning into the speed much slower and used only about 20-25 seconds of full throttle and boost during the run. The difference is impressive both performance and operation wise. Larry pulled off a run that was far more difficult, at least by a factor of four, than what we attempted in Nevada."
According to SSC, the company used devices from Racelogic (VBox), Life Racing, Garmin, and the IMRA (International Mile Racing Association) to accurately register all the relevant numbers.
With an average of 282.9 mph (455.2 km/h), the Tuatara is faster than the Agera RS, in which Koenigsegg factory driver Niklas Lilja established an average speed of two runs of 277.87 mph (447.19 km/h) in November 2017. The Tuatara also had a higher absolute top speed (286.1 mph vs 284.55 mph) than the Swedish hypercar.
We’ll remind you the Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+ driven by Andy Wallace in August 2019 at the Ehra-Lessien test facility owned by the Volkswagen Group was clocked in at 304.77 mph (490.48 km/h). However, the top speed run was done in only one direction because years of running cars clockwise have resulted in a road surface that has a grain going in that direction. Going the other way would’ve built excess heat in the tires, thus creating a potential hazard.
Hennessey also wants a piece of the action with its bespoke hypercar, the Venom F5. It has a claimed top speed of 311 mph (500 km/h), but the Texas tuner-turned-carmaker needs to back up that statement with a top speed run, planned to take place later this year.
We are fairly certain Koenigsegg is looking to reclaim the speed title with its new Jesko Absolut, officially touted as the fastest car the company will ever make. It has a theoretical top speed of 330 mph (532 km/h), but it remains to be seen how that number will be translated in a real-life top speed run.
See where the SSC Tuatara lands on our list of the Fastest Cars in the World.