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SSC Tuatara botches second world’s fastest car attempt

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  • SSC North America recently attempted a second record speed run of the $1.6-million Tuatara supercar after online viewers questioned the legitimacy of the first run.
  • The second run took place at the NASA runway in Florida, according to Motor Authority, on December 12 and 13.
  • Despite the car achieving a speed of 251.2 mph, the rest of the run had to be abandoned because two of the engine’s cylinders weren’t firing properly, likely due to overheating.
  • A third record attempt is set for January.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Boutique carmaker SSC North America recently attempted a second record speed run with its Tuatara supercar after the internet lit up with questions about the legitimacy of the first run, which SSC claimed hit an average of 316 mph.

In short, the second run failed to set a record. In full, there were issues with overheating, the engine wasn’t firing right, and the owner of the car decided to make the run in place of a professional driver. A third attempt is set for later on.

YouTuber Robert Mitchell was, by his own admission, the only independent and non-SSC North America-associated person present at the second record attempt, which took place on December 12 and 13. On December 23, he uploaded a 30-minute video that ran through the events spanning those two days, which you can view in full below.

SSC ran the second run at the NASA runway in Florida, Motor Authority reported.

Mitchell’s video appears to be the only bit of insight into the second record run; both SSC’s YouTube page and media site have not been updated since October.

Earlier that month, SSC had announced that its $1.6 million Tuatara supercar had become “the world’s fastest car” when it achieved a 316-mph average top speed on two consecutive runs. The top speed of the quicker run was 331 mph, SSC said.

Soon after the news broke, though, the record’s legitimacy was called into question when some internet detectives noticed what appeared to be discrepancies between the car’s reported speed and the speed that it was actually traveling. The intense scrutiny caused SSC to say that an editing “mixup” was the source of all the confusion and that the team “hadn’t double-checked the accuracy of the video before it was released.”

Data for the claimed world record wasn’t submitted to Guinness, and Motor Authority noted in late October that the GPS data from the run hadn’t been verified by an independent third party yet. For the second run, SSC CEO Jerod Shelby promised to use GPS equipment from multiple companies. 

SSC Tuatara_34

SSC North America CEO Jerod Shelby.

James Lipman/SSC North America


In the recent video, Mitchell noted that the Tuatara had GPS systems from Garmin and Racelogic hooked up to it so the team (along with everyone else) could be especially certain that the data would be indisputable. The team even showed Mitchell the car’s gear ratios and the anticipated speed at each gear. However, Mitchell said taking pictures or recording video was prohibited.

Whereas the Tuatara’s first record run was attempted with professional driver Oliver Webb at the wheel, Mitchell reported that the car’s owner, Larry Caplin, wanted to drive it himself. 

The testing didn’t go without issues, however. Mitchell said that the Tuatara’s hood kept popping open because so many external systems had been wired to it.

On Caplin’s second-to-last run, the Tuatara had become so hot that the engine software automatically started reducing power as a safety precaution. For more than an hour, the SSC team had to use a chill box to cool the engine down.

SSC Tuatara_21

The SSC Tuatara uses a 5.9-liter V8 engine.

James Lipman/SSC North America


For the final run, the Tuatara hit 251.2 mph before the halfway point before Caplin noticed that he wasn’t gaining speed like he should have been, so he slowed down. This lack in power was due to two of the car’s cylinders not firing right, likely due to overheating. 

A run of 251.2 mph is not what SSC first claimed the Tuatara could do — which was a 316-mph top speed average between two runs and an overall top speed of 331 mph — but Mitchell noted that the car still achieved the 251.2-mph speed without its engine working properly.

Of the speed, Mitchell said: “The high [200-mph speed] is possible. Is it going to crack 300? I don’t know.”

A third record attempt is set to take place in January. Insider reached out to SSC North America for comment on the matter but did not hear back at the time of publishing.

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