A 331 mph top speed. A two way average of 316.11 mph. These are the massive numbers SSC shocked the world with last week when their Tuatara hypercar became the fastest production vehicle ever. It’s an incredible run, with the average speed blowing away records from Koenigsegg on the same road by over 40 mph, and Bugatti’s one-way 304 mph run by over 10 mph. It’s a staggering feat that’s hard to believe, and one we can’t see anyone besting for some time. But that sense of disbelief that a vehicle could go that fast has manifested some theories that the Tuatara didn’t actually achieve such a feat.
A certain prominent YouTuber released a video analysis of the run, showing some inherit red flags in the video. The speeds in the telemetry provided, which are GPS verified (we’ll get back to that), didn’t line up with the time it took the vehicle in the video to get from one median to the next. It’s not an outlandish theory, but one that asks a simple question: why would SSC and racing driver Ollie Webb lie about a top speed record?
There’s at least one strong piece of evidence that implies that they haven’t lied. SSC used Dewetron GPS telemetry for the run, the same equipment used for the five previous top speed record holding vehicles. This included SSC’s own Ultimate Aero, and vehicles from Bugatti and Koenigsegg. Dewetron further confirmed to Motor Trend that they have data of both a 331 mph and a 301 mph speed capture. While Guinness has yet to confirm the world record, it’s currently the reputations of a very experienced telemetry system, and one of America’s oldest car magazines, versus a vlogger. But that’s not to say that Motor Trend hasn’t made big reporting mistakes before.
At any rate, it would be odd that any of the people involved would outright lie about such an enormous accomplishment. The SSC Tuatara has been in development for close to a decade. If they intended to fabricate the run, there would be no point in waiting this long and spending this much money to do it. Maybe it’s because SSC doesn’t have the clout of Koenigsegg, or Bugatti, that’s drawing the ire of the skeptics. But there are nonetheless reputable people behind the project.
Without much burden of proof and hard evidence for anybody to go off of, here’s the popular explanation as to what happened: the onboard footage in the video is not the same run as the telemetry. The video was made by the team currently preparing a full length documentary on the run, and sent exclusively to Top Gear. If that’s the case, both parties should have included a disclaimer for that.
In several interviews after the run, which you can read here, here, and here, test driver Oliver Webb talks about a crosswind on the final 331 mph run, blowing him across an entire lane onto the shoulder’s rumble strips when he backed off. He said he didn’t actually know he hit 331, and told Shelby he’s done with the record attempts, after all, Webb has a baby on the way. It turned out to be the run they needed. But the videos uploaded by SSC do not show any kind of jump across the Nevada highway. But with SSC working closely with the editorial calendar of Top Gear, perhaps the drama is simply being saved for prime time viewing.
While we have no reason to doubt the incredible work done by SSC and all parties involved, all of this is still pending third party validation. And we’ll have to wait and see when that happens.
A Guinness World Records spokesperson told CNBC that the organization is “aware of the recent SSC Tuatara attempt, although Guinness World Records was not present in any capacity, and we have not verified this as a new record.”
Today, Top Gear published an exclusive interview with SSC founder and CEO Jarrod Shelby, and more or less confirms what’s really going on at the moment. You can read the interview yourself, but here are the main takeaways: the top speed run recorded on video may not be the same as the top speed run recording 331 miles per hour, the electronic speedometer was not properly calibrated leading up to the event, and Dewetron had the GPS systems used in the run shipped back to them for verification. It all neither confirms nor denies that a new world record is on the way.
Who do you believe? Sound off in the comments below.