The recent 286 mph top speed run at the Johnny Bohmer Proving Grounds in Florida had demonstrated that the SSC Tuatara can set a speed record, even within the confines of a 2.6 mile runway – 2.3 miles before getting on the brakes. And it was done in the hands of a customer, instead of a professional racing driver. As it stands, the all-American hypercar is the fastest production car on the planet. Yet there’s still unfinished business.
The recorded speed of the SSC Tuatara still falls short of the 300+ mph speeds that has been promised. In turn, this has SSC owner and founder Jerod Shelby, along with his team, are readying another run that aims to silence any doubters of the Tuatara’s mathematical potential as the world’s fastest production car.
It’s not like Shelby and company haven’t done it before. The SSC Ultimate Aero held the title as the world’s fastest production car from 2007 to 2010, dethroning the Bugatti Veyron in the process, with a two-way average speed of 255 mph.
The October 2020 top speed run may not be one for the record books, but Shelby still plans on demonstrating that the SCC Tuatara is capable of reaching speeds above 300 mph.
“We don’t wanna release (when and where) yet. What I will say is we’re not done,” said Shelby, referring to the next all-out SSC Tuatara top speed run, which has a theoretical top speed of 345 mph, mathematically speaking.
However, the SSC North America founder and CEO seems to want to put a stamp on the matter by hitting 300 mph in just 2.3 miles.
“I’m kind of embracing this challenge now,” said Shelby. “To me I think if we can be the first car that does 2 passes at over 300 mph, and we do it in 2.3 miles, I think it’s a statement.”
Ironically, the intention of this particular test wasn’t to demonstrate the SSC Tuatara top speed.
“When we broke the record on Jan 17, we weren’t there to break the record,” said the SSC founder. “We were there to continue bringing the horsepower up… with 1,750 horsepower and trying to do the drag race method – you don’t want be in traction control the whole time – the safety systems in the car start pulling horsepower, timing, and boost. It was really trying to work up to (another top speed run), and work with Michelin on the tires. We continued to bring it up, everything was going so well.”
So they went for it.
“We did a pass, and they said ‘that was 279 mph, that’s above the current record, and we’re like ‘hey, why don’t we flip this around (for a two-way average) real quick and run this in the opposite direction?”
“And in under an hour, if we go 279 mph this way, then it’s an official world record,” he said. “We’ll call it good for this weekend, and we’ll make our plans to come back and continue on.”
Unlike the run in October, which had racing driver Oliver Webb, it was SSC customer Dr. Larry Caplin: CEO of DOCS Health, behind the wheel of the SSC Tuatara. Caplin, long familiar with Jerod Shelby and SSC, also owns two Ultimate Aero hypercars.
“(Dr. Caplin) did it on our final run. We did 279 mph… our team looked at all the data, Larry said the car felt amazing. He said it felt like he was doing 150. Everything was very stable and calm, so he said ‘can you give me full power in 4th, 5th and 6th gear?’”
Not today, it would seem.
Jerod Shelby told Caplin: “we’re gonna give you full power in the second half of second gear, and let’s just see how it goes. We’ll make decisions for next time we come back.”
So Caplin sent it down the runway.
“(The SSC Tuatara) went from 274 mph to 286 in 2.8 seconds. Like it was nothing,” said Shelby. “It was climbing so fast. And as you know, it’s very hard to accelerate at those speeds. And this car was slamming gears like it was launching.”
And with that, this second SSC Tuatara top speed run set a record. And there’s speed left on the table, according to the company founder.
“We feel extremely confident that in that same 2.3 miles, we can hit 300 miles per hour,” said Shelby. “And I will have to say it’s a difficult thing to do in 2.3 miles instead of 7 miles. It’s so much more difficult on the equipment.”
Just as big of a hurdle for Jerod Shelby and his team is scouting, organizing, and setting up these SSC Tuatara top speed record run attempts.
“The challenges due to Covid, it’s been really difficult,” said Shelby. “We knew that when we went down in Nevada in October (2020), we started that (process) in April (2020). To go through the permitting, and get a highway shut down, it takes five, seven, eight months. We knew if we were gonna do that we were looking at Summer of 2021. We started at looking at other states, and we started running into similar factors.”
Time wasn’t exactly on their side.
Considering the timeline for closing a road, Jerod Shelby and his team came up with another idea.
“We started looking at runways which would allow this,” he said. “One of them which would have logistically worked better for us was down in California, at a military base. Well, due to covid, and California restrictions, that was even shut down.”
“It just happened that down in Florida they were a little bit more open with their regulations,” said Shelby. “And I thought, with the timing, it allowed us to come back in December-January to do testing, and that’s where we landed. It was much more difficult than I think any normal year to find an area to do this. And I was really worried about how we would do (testing) in just 2.3 miles.”
The scenario was completely different from the SSC Tuatara top speed run in the desert.
“We spent 6 months doing testing to get ready for Nevada… and our idea was to always bring the car up slow and easy, and nice on the equipment, to about 180-200 mph, and then full throttle or full boost for about 20-25 seconds,” explained Shelby. “And we have done that over and over. We felt good about if the equipment could handle it, we never had any issues.”
It was more of a mystery for a 2.3 mile speed run.
“Now we’re going out from a stop… where now we’re full throttle/full boost for 30-40 seconds,” Shelby noted. “A lot of people would think 20-25 seconds, to 30-40 seconds is not that a big difference. But when you’re talking exhaust temps, intake air temps, crankcase pressure: all of those things go exponential every second, after 25-30 seconds. So it was a much bigger challenge for us.”
And it turns out the extra challenge will end up turning the SSC Tuatara into a more formidable finished product.
“Now, since we’re at it and we’ve been doing this, I feel we had to make some slight modifications to some different assemblies of the car, but really that just made it a more robust car for all future customers,” claimed Shelby. “And, I know feel like ‘let’s stick with this difficult challenge.’ Because if we can achieve speeds that others haven’t, and do it in an environment that’s even tougher, I think that speaks well for our design team.”
The company plans on building only 100 units of the SSC Tuatara, which will start at $1,900,000 USD. Following that, a more affordable supercar will be offered from SSC, codenamed “Little Brother.” But not before Jerod Shelby and company take things to the Nürburgring.