SSC aims to re-run Tuatara land-speed record in next 60 days, probably at different location
The SSC team is wasting no time in its mission to prove the Tuatara is the fastest production vehicle on the planet, officially.
On Thursday, SSC CEO Jerod Shelby told Motor Authority “this needs to happen within 60 days,” referring to the Tuatara making another run for the land-speed record.
SSC claimed to set a new production-car land-speed record of 311.61 mph on Oct. 10. However, on Oct. 30, Shelby posted a video responding to people who doubted the run’s legitimacy by saying he had dropped the ball and he had the same doubts. He also announced SSC would re-run the record attempt.
The location for the next attempt has not yet been determined.
“We’re looking at a few alternatives,” Shelby said. It took nine months to secure and arrange for the section of State Route 160 to be shut down outside of Pahrump, Nevada, and even if he could do it quicker he doesn’t want to wait six months.
It’s unclear if the next record attempt will be on a public road again. Shelby noted any two-lane road is pretty dangerous as there’s so little room for error if there’s any wind.
“You’re not just testing the car, you’re testing the courage of the driver,” Shelby said.
Shelby and his team were extremely impressed with driver Oliver Webb during the first attempt, but he can’t say who will be driving the Tuatara for the second attempt. Webb lives in England, which recently enacted travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tuatara performed the first record attempt on stock Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and will do the same for the second attempt. Shelby said the reason stock, off-the-shelf tires can work for the Tuatara at these speeds, while Bugatti needed carbon-fiber reinforced Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, was due to load ratings.
“We felt confident we were well enough below the safety margin on the tire rating due to the weight of the car and the downforce,” Shelby said. The Tuatara has 771 pounds of downforce at 312 mph spread 37% to the front and 63% to the rear. It’s dry weight is just 2,750 pounds.
When Shelby announced SSC would make a second run at the record he told MA, “we’ll run it again, with every backstop in place, so the speeds clocked on the next run are irrefutable.”
On Thursday, Shelby told MA there’s no data file with the GPS satellite data from the first run because it wasn’t needed.
Back in 2007 when SSC broke the production-vehicle land-speed record with the Ultimate Aero, Guinness required a video recording of the GPS satellite data feed (showing the speed), two independent witnesses on site viewing the GPS satellite feed, verification from said independent witnesses, a letter from the manufacturer of the GPS satellite tracking equipment manufacturer (it was Dewetron in 2007) certifying the equipment was accurate, and a spec sheet stating the equipment meets specifications. This all resulted with Shelby and his team receiving a certificate from Guinness World Records stating the SSC Ultimate Aero had broken the production-vehicle land-speed record.
“The data file was never brought up in 2007, we got the world record,” Shelby said.
When it came time to run the Tuatara to break the record set by the Koenigsegg Agera RS of 277.9 mph in 2017, Shelby said he wasn’t going to reinvent the wheel. He set up to track the run the same way as in 2007.
For the record run with the Tuatara in October, Dewetron reps were not on site to monitor the run due to the pandemic. Shelby noted that Dewetron never set up or trained the SSC team on how to produce a data file. That means Dewetron also wasn’t on hand to calibrate its equipment.
SSC and Dewetron released a joint press release stating the Austrian manufacturer of high-precision test and measurement equipment had validated SSC’s speed record claim. Two days later, however, the CEO of Dewetron walked the statement back, stating Dewetron had not validated the record-attempt data, confirmed no Dewetron employees were present for the attempt, and would not guarantee the data due to the need for proper set up and calibration.
Shelby told MA Dewetron asked SSC if it had run another GPS device in the car between March and Oct. 10 to know if the Dewetron system was accurate. “No, we just assumed yours was reliable, never validated the validated box,” Shelby responded.
Engineering Explained’s Jason Fenske is a mechanical engineer, and he posted a video evaluating both the run and the Tuatara. Based on the videos of the first record attempt and Fenske’s calculations, Fenske figured the Tuatara may have only gone 226 mph instead of the claimed 331 mph. The issue was likely a scaling (calibration) factor with the Dewetron equipment, which would have essentially been a filter or a multiplier, applied to the data output.
Michael Savittieri, Dewetron regional sales manager for the western U.S., told Motor Authority in October that the system is extremely accurate, but “it’s all about the scaling for when you are setting up.” If the system was setup incorrectly the data would then be off.
Fenske calculated the theoretical top speed of the Tuatara is 345 mph.
Can the car run that fast? We should see soon.