The internet has pretty much turned the entire world into cranky roommates, with everyone knowing everyone’s business all the time. While sometimes this can be maddening, other times I kind of appreciate the fact that any major claim will be subjected to truly remarkable levels of scrutiny. This goes for major claims like, oh, SSC (formerly Shelby Super Cars) North America’s claim that its new Tuatara ran 331 mph, with a two-way average speed of 316, busting the record for a production car on a public road. But did it?
It seems a lot of people aren’t so sure. A lot of the issues people are having has to do with a Top Gear video that shows the record run:
One of the main issues with this video is one that was brought up to me by members of the Facebook Koenigsegg 4 Life group, some members of which witnessed Koenigsegg’s previous 278 mph record run at the same location in 2017.
The witnesses to that previous run noticed that the directions of travel on that notoriously straight stretch of Route 160 between Las Vegas and Pahrump didn’t seem right. From a member of the group who witnessed the 2017 run:
“As the article tells it, the 301 was set in the southeast (toward Las Vegas) direction, and the 331 was set in the northwest (toward Pahrump) direction, on the last run of the day, during which Oliver Webb had a bit of an “oh shit” moment and was visibly shaken afterward. No more runs were made that day, having secured the record.
The problem is, the video that seemingly shows the 331 mph run was filmed with the car heading in the southeast direction. I recognized this when I first saw the video on Monday, and thought it was strange, since in 2017 Koenigsegg’s faster speed was achieved going northwest. This is because highway 160 has a bit of grade in the record-setting spot chosen by both companies. So not only did the video not match the account as described in the article, but somehow SSC had run faster uphill, opposite the results that Koenigsegg had seen. Furthermore, there’s no evidence of any “oh shit” moment, but maybe it was so slight I didn’t see it.”
Regarding these questions about the directions of the run, I reached out to the PR firm working for SSC, which confirmed that, yes, there is an issue with the video and the description of it in a behind-the-scenes Motor Authority article:
To confirm —
The 301mph run was heading North West, toward Pahrump.
The 331 run was South East, toward Las Vegas.
Motor Authority had initially misstated (but has since corrected) the directions of travel, because in the interview, Jerod had described all three runs (including the first pass, at 287), but then, during post-interview fact-checking, we had only provided the directions of travel for the two runs that had counted toward the top speed, and had referred to them as “run 1" and “run 2,” rather than stating the speed of each run. (So MA had mistakenly written that the first run (287) was NW, the second run was SE, and the 3rd run was NW.)
Okay, the direction is cleared up, but that’s not all of the problems that the Koenigsegg group found. Since the location was known and distances known, average speed between known points can be calculated, and the results found by members of the group didn’t seem to add up.
Again, from the group:
“I mean, I pretty much am an idiot, but I figure the Tuatara’s *actual* average speed over segment 1 to be 175, and segment 2 to be 195. To me that makes an average over both segments of *actually* 185.
For any part of that run to have been anywhere near 300, the rest of the run would almost have to have been at highway speed, in order to achieve a 185 *actual* average.
This is all before we even talk about the discrepancies between the two telemetry units (that don’t agree) and what we know the actual speed to be.
Does it have any impact on the record? Not at all, if we ever get to see the raw video of such, and it’s legit. (What will the telemetry onboard say?) But the TopGear video in no way can be any part of 316 two-way average. It’s bogus. So what, right? It’s just a teaser? Yeah except that it was broadcast around the world as evidence they had done it. It’s 100% intended to represent a record run, and it clearly does not. This was intentional, by someone, and I’m not okay with it, even though it has no impact on my life whatsoever. I don’t like it when liars lie their way into accolades.”
...and it goes on, with more numbers:
“Let’s look at segment 2. The Tuatara enters at an indicated 305, leaving at an indicated 242. It takes 25 seconds by my count, and is 1.36 miles long. That’s an average *actual* speed in the segment of 195 by the calculations.
If the Tuatara hits a peak of 331 in segment 2, and departs at its lowest speed in the segment of 242, then the average speed in the segment HAS to be between 331 and 242. This point cannot be disputed, because anything else is mathematically impossible.
It doesn’t matter what else happens during segment 2. Even if the Tuatara were to peak at 600, its average speed over that distance can’t be LESS than its slowest speed in the segment, which is indicated to be 242.
You can do the same thing for the Tuatara’s time in segment 1. The Tuatara enters at an indicated low of 192 and accelerates to an exit high of an indicated 305. The segment is 1.12 miles long, and it did it in 23 seconds by my count. This results in an average *actual* speed of 175. I don’t think I need to point out that 175 is NOT between 192 and 305.”
The Koenigsegg group members aren’t alone here. They’re not just buttock-hurt Koenigsegg stans picking at a rival’s record. Most of the same issues have been noticed by others, such as racing YouTuber Misha Charoudin, who made a very involved video, complete with Excel spreadsheets:
This video has the same issues with the released video of the record run, specifically that the run shown on the video and the speeds indicated on the video do not match up with the average speeds computed by the distances covered and the time it took to cover it — pretty much the definition of what speed actually is.
Noted supercar drooler-over and YouTuber Shmee released a similar video, alleging very similar things regarding distance and average speed as well:
What all these videos and posts and theories are saying is not so much that they feel the SSC Tuatara is incapable of running 331 mph but more that the video released as proof is questionable at best and has the appearance of being fraudulent at worst.
Looking at the numbers for these various analyses, all of the skeptic’s numbers do seem to be roughly in agreement; whatever is going on here, it does not seem that the people scrutinizing the video are wildly guessing anything. Using the same information presented in the video, the times given and the known distances, they’re all reaching pretty much the same conclusions.
And that conclusion is that something doesn’t look right, at least in what this video is showing. The superimposed speeds and the dash speeds and the average computed speeds simply don’t work.
If you didn’t watch the videos, what’s essentially going on is this: Using known landmarks and distances measured on Google Maps, the investigators found that the average speeds needed to traverse these segments in the time shown in the released video would be lower than the lowest speeds indicated in the video, which is, of course, impossible.
I held off publishing this yesterday to wait to hear back from SSC via their PR contact, and today I’ve been told more information should be coming, though I don’t currently know when. I’ll update when I hear something back.
Keep in mind that Jalopnik is not weighing in here on the validity of the record; we’re just reporting on what’s being discussed.
October 26, 2020, East Greenwich, R.I. – DEWETRON, a globally respected GPS data-measurement manufacturer, has validated SSC North America’s claim that its Tuatara hypercar had averaged a top-speed run of 316.11mph (508.73 km/h) as recorded on October 10, 2020 near Pahrump, Nevada. That average speed was determined based on two runs, of 301.07 mph (484.53 km/h) and 331.15 mph (532.93 km/h), traveling in opposite directions.
DEWETRON has worked with SSC since the hypercar manufacturer utilized its GPS measurement systems for the Ultimate Aero top speed record in 2007. Four out of five of the last world top-speed records were measured and validated on the same DEWETRON system.
Now, just to make everything even messier, DEWETRON has released its own press release stating that they in fact did not confirm the speed record as SSC said they did:
“Despite the information published on the website of SSC North America as well as on several related and non-related YouTube channels, DEWETRON did not validate any data from world record attempts or preceding tests. Nobody of DEWETRON’s employees was present during the test drive or involved in the associated preparations. Since the results of measurement data highly rely on the right setup, on theregular calibration of the systems and sensors in use as well as on many other parameters, we are not able to guarantee the accuracy or correctness of the outcome. As of this moment, DEWETRON did not receive the measurement file of the test drive.As a result of the absence during the test drive paired with the missing data, DEWETRON is not able to make any further statements about the world record attempt under question.”
..and, in bold, they add:
“Therefore, we again want to highlight that DEWETRON neither approved nor validated any test results. No DEWETRON employee was present during the record attempt or its preparations.”
So, really, the ball is back in SSC’s court, and at this point there is no official GPS validation of the speed record, as some outlets were quick to say.
For their part, SSC’s CEO, Jerod Shelby, issued this lengthy statement:
On October 10, 2020, SSC North America realized a dream that was a decade in the making, when our Tuatara hypercar achieved an average top speed of 316.11 MPH.
In the days since, there has been a swirl of interest and speculation about how and whether the Tuatara had achieved that speed.
The good news: we did it, and the numbers are indeed on our side.
The bad news: only after the fact did we realize that the depiction of the speed run, in video form, had been substantially incorrect.
The following is a long explanation of what and how this happened, to the extent we now know. I hope it will serve to build trust in the SSC team, and in the exceptional feat the Tuatara has earned.
Three years ago, SSC began working with Driven Studios, a video team to document what seemed like every waking moment of the Tuatara hypercar and those who’ve created it.
They’ve since interviewed virtually every team member and consultant, captured the car in build and throughout extensive testing, and have played a key role in not only capturing, but in producing the record run on October 10 in Pahrump, Nevada. They have become a trusted partner of the SSC family.
On the big day, October 10, there were video cameras everywhere — in the cockpit, on the ground, and even secured on a helicopter a low-flying T33 to capture the car at speed.
The morning of the run, the record was achieved, we were over the moon. We kept the news under embargo until October 19, with hopes of releasing a video to accompany the press release.
On October 19, the day the news broke, we thought there were two videos that had been released — one from the cockpit, with data of the speed run overlaid, and another video of b-roll running footage. The cockpit video was shared with Top Gear, as well as on the SSC and Driven+ YouTube pages.
Somehow, there was a mixup on the editing side, and I regret to admit that the SSC team hadn’t double checked the accuracy of the video before it was released. We also hadn’t realized that not one, but two different cockpit videos existed, and were shared with the world.
Hypercar fans have quickly cried foul, and we hadn’t immediately responded, because we had not realized the inconsistencies — that there were two videos, each with inaccurate information — that had been shared. This was not our intention. Like me, the head of the production team had not initially realized these issues, and has brought on technical partners to identify the cause of the inconsistency.
At first glance, it appears that the videos released have differences in where the editors had overlaid the data logger (which displays speed), in relation to the car’s location on the run. That variance in ‘sync points’ accounts for differing records of the run.
While we had never intended for the video captured to play the role of legitimizing the run, we are regretful that the videos shared were not an accurate representation of what happened on October 10.
Driven Studios does have extensive footage of everything that transpired and is working with SSC to release the actual footage in its simplest form. We’ll share that as soon as it’s available.
On the day of the speed run, SSC used Dewetron equipment to track the Tuatara, and verify its speed, as measured by an average of 15 satellites across the two runs. We chose Dewetron for the sophistication of its equipment, and using that has given us confidence in the accuracy of the car’s measured speed.
People have sought additional details, which hadn’t provided in earlier press materials, and those technical specifications are listed below:
Tutara (Top Speed Model) Tech Specs
Ratios/Speed, using the 2.92 final-drive ratio
Gear Ratios/Top Speed (Gears 1-6 have 8,800 RPM REV LIMIT)
1st Gear: 3.133 / 80.56 MPH
2nd Gear: 2.100 / 120.18 MPH
3rd Gear: 1.520 / 166.04 MPH
4th Gear: 1.172 / 215.34 MPH
5th Gear: .941 / 268.21 MPH
6th Gear: .757 / 333.4 MPH @8800 *
7th Gear: .625 / 353.33 MPH (Estimated max @7,700RPM in 7th gear - Designed as mainly an overdrive highway cruising gear)
* FYI: Cross reference validations from data log-
Oliver is travelling at 236mph when he shifts from 5th to 6th at 7,700RPM (which tracks almost exactly to the gear-ratio data) and he pushed close to the top of 6th achieving 331.1 MPH at 8,600 RPM which tracks with our theoretical of 333.4mph @ 8800 RPM.
Drag goes from 0.279 up to 0.314 at 311mph (500kph)
Car is producing approx. 770lbs of downforce at 311mph
It is calculated that car needs 1,473HP to achieve 311mph (500kph)
In order to calculate the required power the following assumptions were made:
• The rolling resistance coefficient of the tires has been obtained from the manufacturer (Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2) declared energy class: E.
• The overall drivetrain efficiency (from crankshaft to wheel) has been set to 94%.
• The air density has been set to 1,205 kg/m3 (which is found at 20°C at sea level).
• The vehicle mass has been set to 1474 kg = 1384 kg curb weight + 90 kg driver.
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
Rear Tire Diameter / Circumference: 345/30ZR20
Normal Running Pressure = 35psi
WORLD RECORD RUNNING PRESSURE = 49psi
How the Speed Was Measured
The SSC team received a piece of Dewetron equipment for its use in the speed run. The SSC team was trained remotely (due to COVID) on the use of that equipment.
The Dewetron equipment includes sensors placed in the vehicle, that tracked an average of 15 satellites over the course of the Tuatara top speed run.
Two independent witnesses, not affiliated with SSC nor Dewetron, were on site to view the speeds measured by the Dewetron equipment. SSC intends to submit proof of what those witnesses had seen on the Dewetron equipment to Guinness for verification.
On October 22, Dewetron sent a letter to SSC confirming the accuracy of the equipment and speed sensor they had provided to SSC, and that letter will also be submitted to Guinness as part of application for the world top speed record.
As an additional step, SSC is in the process of submitting the Dewetron equipment and speed sensor for further analysis and verification of that equipment’s accuracy.
So, it looks as if SSC admits the released video is, in fact, not accurate, which explains why there were so many discrepancies. Final, unedited videos and confirmation of GPS data appear to be still forthcoming, so independent investigators will likely have to wait to confirm when those are available.
If nothing else, this has all been an incredible lesson in how important it is to provide good data when making big claims. Because you know there will always be people checking.