A few weeks back, we wrote about how John Hennessey said he’ll be able to break the 300 mph with his planned Venom F5 supercar. We found that it’s extremely unlikely that the F5 could make 300 mph on the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires the car currently uses. John Hennessey himself reached out to us to discuss this, and here’s where he stands on the speed claim now.
The whole reason this came up at all has to do with a quote Hennessey gave to Top Gear, in the context of a discussion about how Bugatti does not believe the tires are able to withstand 300 mph if they attempt to hit that speed in the Bugatti Chiron:
“Tires are a limiting factor for Bugatti,” John says. “But I don’t believe they’re a limiting factor for us. When we do our math, we know that we are not overloading them. We’re not even close to the load specification of the tires at our speeds.”
That’s a bold statement, and we looked into it, and our research did not seem to suggest that things would be any different for Hennessey than they’d be for Bugatti: those are not 300 mph tires.
Since John Hennessey was at the Los Angeles Auto Show the same time I was, he offered to meet me and talk in person. We at Jalopnik were hesitant to do another story with Hennessey given his past issues with allegations of deceptive business practices and failing to deliver customer cars.
Plus, we were skeptical of the latest 300 mph claim and we never heard back from him after reaching out for comment on that latter story, so I figured it would only be fair to give him his shake here.
Regarding the tires and the Venom F5's ability to hit that magic 300 mph limit, here’s what Hennessey said in an interview I recorded:
“I guess my general statement about tires is like if you ask the submarine commander how deep will the submarine go?,” he told me. “They don’t really know. Now you know we don’t really know what the upper limit is, and I don’t think any tire manufacturer from Pirelli to Michelin or anybody else. Those guys aren’t going to go on the record from a liability standpoint—sure they’re not going to say.”
Of course, it’s worth mentioning here that Hennessey is not a tire expert. As far as the tire companies not knowing what the upper limit on their tires is, we should point out that tire companies do an awful lot of testing and simulations to get a pretty good idea of a tire’s parameters. As Michelin told us in a statement:
“Prior to any speed run, we validate the tires though analytical analysis as well as machine testing using the exact conditions the tires will encounter. We take into account vehicle weight, horsepower, camber & toe, aero loads at speed, road surface and more. Validating the tires are capable of reaching those speeds is critical.”
So, while they may not be willing to “go on the record” about a tire’s upper limit, it’s not likely a result of ignorance, but rather protecting trade secrets.
Hennessey added, “I felt like there were some significant differences between whether it’s the Veyron or the Chiron or the F5. I’m not saying that because the car is lighter, it’s a slam dunk and we’re not going to have any issues going up running the numbers.”
Finally, Hennessey told me: “So if I was a little more casual and relaxed probably because I’d had a margarita. You know we’re going you’re trying to go 300. We’d like to go 300.”
Also interesting is that Hennessey has said that his company is under a nondisclosure agreement with Michelin and another tire manufacturer, and that it’s certainly possible that when the time comes to make a serious speed run in the Venom F5, they may be using a bespoke tire.
“Well, we unveiled we unveiled the car with the support of the new-for-us tire,” he said. “When we go, when we get to the point when we’re ready to do some high-speed testing we’ll use the best tire available, whether it’s the specific tire that they have right now on Chiron or possibly a bespoke tire—it could be a bespoke tire. You know we’re having conversations. And there are tire people that are supporting that.”
Hennessey also told me something about the F5 that’s new to all of us: he may choose to limit the top speed.
“And I’ll give you something I haven’t given anybody else. If we get to a point where whatever speed it might be—280, 285 or 290, and we feel like, okay that’s the limit of the tires, we will put a speed limit on the car. Okay? You put a limit on because, again, safety is paramount.”
As far as an artificially-limited top speed goes, Hennessey did suggest that could be flexible as tire technology develops.
“As far as if it feels like it needs a speed limit, if we can find out later that technology improves at a later date where they can upgrade and go faster, then we will. We don’t know yet in terms of what the upper limit capabilities of the car in terms of tires,” he said.
The sense I get from all this is he’s less confident it can hit 300 mph on current, existing street tires than previously stated.
That’s not to say it won’t ever hit 300 mph—like the Chiron, or the Koenigsegg Agera RS, with properly-engineered, likely bespoke tires, any one of these cars has a good chance of hitting that magic number.
It’ll be interesting to see how this race to 300 shapes up, and it’s worth noting that this is a race that will be taking place as much in a tire company’s research laboratories as it will on some lonely stretch of closed-down desert highway.
As far as the other subjects we’ve covered about Hennessey in the past, I did ask at least one follow-up question: I asked Hennessey about a foreign buyer named Ahmad Ali who claimed to have never gotten a refund for work he said was never performed.
Hennessey has repeatedly claimed to us that the matter was settled, and that Ali hasn’t gotten a $10,000 partial refund yet due to a wire transfer issue on the former customer’s end. But Ali told us on Wednesday this explanation has happened before, and it always results in the same thing: nothing.
“They always have the bank details when they sent me the earlier payments, so how come they keep asking it always more than one time?” he said in an email, adding he’s been waiting for the refund for four years now.
Soon after we got this response from Ali, Hennessey forwarded what appears to be a receipt of a wire transfer to Ali for $10,050.
We’ll keep watching.