Update, October 29, 2020: The founder, owner and CEO of SSC North America, Jerod Shelby, has responded to doubts regarding the legitmacy of the Tuatara’s record run in a statement. While admitting that the video of the run was “substantially incorrect”, he has insisted that the record stands, and that the “numbers are indeed on our side”. Driving.co.uk will provide updates in due course.
QUESTIONS are surfacing regarding the legitimacy of the claimed production car speed record set by the SSC Tuatara on a seven-mile stretch of road near Las Vegas last week.
A video by Shmee150, a YouTuber who creates supercar-related content, questioned whether or not the video footage of the event — as well as the mechanical setup of the £1.5m supercar — supports the claim made by SSC North America that the Tuatara hit a speed of 331.15mph in one direction and 301.07mph the other, for an average top speed of 316.11mph over both directions. The criteria for setting such a record requires a two-speed average.
In the video, Shmee150 — real name Tim Burton — notes that the stretch of Nevada State Route 160 on which the record was attempted has a number median markers, three of which are obvious in the video. Using the distance calculator on Google Maps, as well as counting the number of 10ft white lines on the road (which have a standardised space of 30ft between them), he calculates that the distance between the first and second median is 1.13 miles, while the distance between the second and third is 1.41 miles.
According to SSC’s footage, it takes driver Oliver Webb approximately 22.64 seconds to get from the first to the second median, which equates to an average speed of 179.7mph. However, the overlay on the footage shows a speedometer reading of 192mph when the car reaches the first median and a reading of 307mph when he passes the second median, which would result in a far higher average speed of nearly 250mph.
Similarly, it takes the Tuatara 24.4 seconds to sprint between the second and third medians, which would result in an average speed of 209.5mph. However, SSC’s readout shows the car travelling at 307mph at the second median, before hitting the 331mph mark and decelerating to a speed of 242mph when it travels past the third median.
Burton noted that his measurements of distance and time could be slightly off due to the moving camera in the video, but estimated that they are correct to within a few percent. He also guessed that the peak speed that the Tuatara actually reached during the run was closer to 280mph than 331mph, providing the video released by SSC was not slowed down (a move for which there would be little reason when depicting the breaking of a speed record).
Further questions arise when the Tuatara footage is compared against that of the Koenigsegg Agera RS, which set the record that SSC claims to have broken on the same stretch of road in 2017. When the videos are synced by starting them both at the point they reach the second median, the Agera RS reaches the third median significantly before the Tuatara, despite the speedometer on the Tuatara’s footage depicting far higher speeds than that on the Agera RS footage.
Further doubts stem from speedometer readings, too. At the moment the telemetry reading says the Tuatara has hit 331mph, Burton reports that the car’s speedometer actually reads 301mph. While production car speedometers allow for a margin of error, they can legally never display a speed slower than that which the car is actually going. This is a law both in America and in Europe. A margin for error that overestimates the 301mph speed would therefore support Burton’s estimate that the actual speed the Tuatara hit during the run was somewhere closer to 280mph.
The final argument made by Burton concerns the Tuatara’s mechanical ability to reach 331mph in its sixth gear. Oliver Webb has confirmed that he did not use the upper gear of the Tuatara’s seven speed manual gearbox in accelerating to the top speed, meaning that whatever the top speed achieved was, it was reached in sixth gear. The run was also conducted on 20in Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyres. Using this information, as well as the gear ratios of the Tuatara and its 8,800rpm rev limit, it is possible to calculate the top speed the car can reach in each gear. Such calculations by Burton found that the top speed of the car in sixth gear is 296.15mph.
SSC North America did not immediately respond to Driving.co.uk’s request for comment. However, in its press release announcing the record run, it said: “Officials were on site to verify all world record criteria was met — including review of Dewetron GPS measurements, which tracked the speed runs using an average of 15 satellites — and to confirm the new record.”