SSC Admits Tuatara's 331-MPH Top Speed Video Was 'Incorrect' as Chaos Engulfs World Record Run

The heir apparent to the top speed throne is attempting to set the record straight—but the facts are still murky.

tuatara controversy lead
SSC North America

The 1,750-horsepower SSC Tuatara hypercar supposedly set the top speed record for a production vehicle last week, blowing past previous marks held by Bugatti and Koenigsegg with an average velocity of 316.11 mph along Nevada's desolate Highway 160. An onboard video of the faster 331-mph run (the record is an average of two attempts in opposite directions) accompanying the announcement garnered worldwide attention—and no small share of doubters on YouTube and social media, who immediately raised red flags suggesting the speed might not be legit.

You would expect any notable world record, especially one that involves driving over 300 mph on a public road, to attract its fair share of skeptics. But this time, it seems they were onto something. 

On Wednesday, SSC issued a statement admitting that the onboard video allegedly depicting the 331-mph run was "substantially incorrect," capping a whirlwind few days in which Dewetron, the company who supplied the GPS speed recording technology, distanced itself from SSC and denied SSC's claim that it had "validated" the record attempt.

In a nutshell, SSC claims its media partner for the event somehow released two different cockpit videos from the day—at least one of which was "not an accurate representation of what happened on October 10"—and that there were issues in syncing the data log with the video feed. 

Confusing, I know. This doesn't really address the math people have done using landmarks on the road prove the Tuatara was actually traveling slower than the claimed speed throughout the clip, or the fact that the laptop screen seen in the passenger seat in the video shows the same record-breaking numbers as the overlay.

This is already a messy story, and it's only going to get messier absent clear communication about who's saying what. So here's SSC's long explanation in full:

"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."

Though amateur sleuths immediately started doing their thing on the internet as soon as the news broke, most of the chatter was happening in the background until this week when prominent YouTuber Shmee150 weighed in with his analysis. 

In a video, he analyzes the SSC's top speed run doing simple math, comparing the time it takes for the vehicle to traverse a known distance on Highway 160. The numbers don't add up, finding a speed closer to 280 miles per hour, not 331. Furthermore, he compares the Tuatara's run to Koenigsessg's previous record-holding run, noting that the Tuatara is visibly slower than the Swedish hypercar.

Still, this might all have gone under the radar had SSC not issued its now-controversial statement on Monday claiming the record run had been "validated" by well-regarded precision measurement company Dewetron. The problem? Dewetron now says it has no idea what SSC is talking about.

"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," Dewetron said in a statement late Tuesday night, adding that none of its employees were on site during the attempt or for any of its preparations. "Since the results of measurement data highly rely on the right setup, on the regular 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."

Furthermore, Dewetron claims it hasn't even seen the raw data files from the alleged record run, so it really has no way of "validating" anything right now. And indeed, a careful re-read of SSC's original statement regarding the analytics' company's involvement shows it's purposefully worded to make SSC's use of Dewetron's measuring technology sound like an official verification of the speed from Dewetron itself—those are obviously not the same things.

Also raising suspicion was the fact that the company's claims haven't been checked independently, at least in a public fashion. However, in a statement The Drive received from an SSC representative on Oct. 28, the company says that two independent witnesses not affiliated with SSC or Dewetron were on-site to verify the results. 

It also claims that Dewetron sent a letter to SSC confirming the accuracy of the equipment and the speed sensor they had provided to SSC. It says that letter will be submitted to Guinness as part of the application for the speed record. 

Discrepancies about the car's mechanical systems were also cleared up, primarily relating to the transmission and final drive ratio. Some observers claimed that the vehicle wasn't capable of the speeds in the video due to only being in sixth gear. However, SSC states that the final drive of the transmission is 2.92:1, not the 3.167:1 ratio that has been assumed by others. 

A table calculating the possible speeds with this transmission was included in the release to prove the speed was possible in sixth gear, claiming the sixth gear ratio to be .757:1, making a speed of 333.4 mph possible at 8800 rpm using 28.185-inch diameter Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires.

SSC says the company it used to create the video of the car completing its run has extensive footage of the actual record run and is working with SSC to release that footage "in its simplest form." It also intends to take further steps to ensure the record is sound, saying it will submit the Dewetron equipment and speed sensor they used for the record for further verification of the equipment’s accuracy.

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