There’s a new fastest car on the block — and by block, we mean in the world. Hennessey, a tuning outfit based in Texas and perhaps most known for making some bonkers Corvettes (and a slew of other vehicles, including pickups), was able to push its Venom GT supercar — a heavily modified Lotus Exige with a turbocharged 7-liter V8 — to 270.49 miles per hour.
That’s the fastest speed ever clocked by a road-legal car, beating out the 269.86 mile-per-hour run achieved by the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. The Venom nailed the tremendous top speed at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, one of the few places with enough wide-open space to even attempt the feat. Behind the wheel was test pilot Brian Smith, who ran the run on February 14.
“At the very top end, there was a little wandering, but hey, we’re going 270mph!” Smith, a former Michelin tire test engineer, said in footage provided by Top Gear. “It was still pulling. If we could run on an eight-mile oval, we could go faster than that.”
That rate of speed is impressive, but the figures that come along with it are equally mind blowing. According to data pulled from the VBox that was installed, the jaunt from 20 miles per hour to 120 miles per hour took just 7.71 seconds (most everyday cars take that much time to reach 60). During that sprint, it peaked at 1.2g of longitudinal acceleration.
The gap from 120 to 220 passed in a scant 10 seconds (technically even less), while the remaining 10 miles per hour — 260 to 270 — also took about 10 seconds. Given the amount of air that the Venom is pushing through at those speeds, that’s a remarkable rate of acceleration.
The track at the Kennedy Space Center has a tarmac known as the Ehra-Lessien straight, which covers about 5.5 miles, with a curved banking at the end. The Space Center’s runway ends in “grass and a ditch,” and for Smith to prevent putting Hennessey’s $1 million or so car in it, he had to hit the brakes pretty hard after its 270-mile-per-hour peak.
Smith brought the Venom from to top to 70 miles per hour in just under 1,000 meters, which, as Top Gear points out, is mighty quick considering that its top speed meant the Venom was traveling at 120 meters every second.
All in all, it was a significantly impressive and substantially meaningful run for Hennessey, but here’s where semantics play in: according to Guinness World Records, a car must make two runs — one in either direction — with the two top speeds averaged out for the official time to qualify for the record. Therefore the Bugatti retains its grip on the crown, for now.
But why didn’t Hennessey just turn it around and race back the other way? It turns out they wanted to, but NASA — which runs the space facility — wouldn’t allow them. In fact, just getting the one run in at the Space Center was challenging enough, John Hennessey said.
“We wanted to run in both directions, but the NASA guys wouldn’t let us. Getting into NASA isn’t easy. It was a two-year process,” Hennessey, who runs his namesake business, told Top Gear. He added that the car would have been mechanically fine for a return run and that the single run didn’t take advantage of any significant wind assistance. “The morning was relatively calm, about a 3mph quarter-crosswind. If we’d run in both directions, the result would have been pretty much the same.”
Furthermore, the Venom wouldn’t have qualified even if the return trip had been made, again due to Guinness’s record semantics. ”For whatever reason, Guinness made a decision that to qualify [for a production car world record], you have to build 30 units,” Hennessey said to the car program. “We’re only making 29 Venom GTs. To date we’ve built and delivered 11.”
For now, Hennessey will have to be happy with the record being off the record, and Hennessey agrees with Smith that the Venom can easily pull past 270 miles per hour had the car been given more space. What’s more, he doesn’t see the Bugatti as playing in the same ring as the Venom. ”They’re completely different cars,” he said. “We aim not just to be the most powerful, but also the lightest. [The Veyron] is a Bentley GT, a comfortable car.”