The Hair-Elevating, Report-Setting Race to 331 MPH

In the end, Webb says, the limiting issue on the highway that morning wasn’t the automotive—its 5.9-L twin-turbo V8 was nonetheless good for a minimum of one other 20 mph, SSC engineers estimate—however the circumstances. “We didn’t have six lanes on a test track to play with,” says Webb, who competes in a number of race collection, together with Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship, along with being a check and stunt driver. “This is two lanes, and if you get pushed over one lane you only have 6 inches before it’s game over. So it was me deciding to back out of the run. In ideal conditions, we could have gone faster.”

The hassle is the fruits of a 10-year growth course of for the $1.6 million Tuatara, which succeeds the corporate’s SSC Final Aero. That automotive had set the document in 2007 for quickest manufacturing automotive, with a pace of 256.18 mph. SSC approached the design of the brand new automotive with the document in thoughts, Shelby says, and the group paid explicit consideration to the engine—developed in collaboration with Nelson Racing Engines—and aerodynamics, as you’d count on. They needed to be extra than simply adequate to maintain the automotive on a racetrack: The automotive wanted to be slippery sufficient for high-speed straight-line driving and capable of generate sufficient downforce to stay to the pavement, but it nonetheless needed to look nice to collectors and the hypercar-admiring public.

That problem fell to designer Jason Castriota, whose background consists of time at Italian automotive design homes Bertone and Pininfarina, the place he contributed a number of Ferrari and Maserati manufacturing and idea automobiles. He says his chief problem with a automotive engineered to exceed 300 mph included managing the airflow each externally and internally, the latter because of the large warmth generated by the engine. Too many radiators and additional cooling fluid would enhance weight, so Castriota created a community of channels that funnel air into and out of the automotive. The group adopted an prolonged wheelbase, an ultracompact engine configuration, and a passenger compartment that resembles a capsule, all within the service of controlling airflow for cooling the engine and brakes, rising downforce, and minimizing drag. The automotive has a coefficient of drag of zero.279, which itself is a document for its class—a Jeep Wrangler scores a chunky zero.454 by comparability.

The overall downforce at 312 mph—the utmost they simulated—was 770 kilos. Consider downforce because the aerodynamic reverse of the carry generated by an airplane’s wing, and Shelby estimates it will have been effectively over 800 kilos at 331 mph, Webb’s prime pace.

Aerodynamic stability can be important, in that it determines the “center of pressure” within the automotive—the place the automotive is pushing down probably the most. That needs to be occurring straight behind the driving force, however in early iterations of the automotive, laptop simulations indicated that at excessive pace, over 300 mph, a lot of the downward aerodynamic drive was occuring 10 automotive lengths forward of the car, because it pushed air ahead whereas shifting by means of it. “We had to claw back our center of pressure to get it where we needed it to be,” Castriota says. “It was a million little adjustments and reshaping of the car to walk it back.”

After a short warm-up and highway inspection, race driver Oliver Webb accomplished two passes within the Tuatara for the document. Speeds have been validated by way of onboard GPS monitoring of 16 satellites. Crosswinds possible barely exceeded the 10-mph abort cutoff, however Webb pushed by means of and reached a prime pace of 331 mph, regardless of some white-knuckle moments behind the wheel.

: James Lipman/SSC North America

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