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When One Car Has More Horsepower Than Churchill Downs

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Mr. Rimac’s company, Rimac Automobili, looks to top that with next year’s C_Two hypercar, whose claimed specs might make Han Solo jealous: 1,888 horsepower, a 1.85-second launch to 60 m.p.h. and a 258-m.p.h. peak. Tesla’s Roadster, unveiled in 2017 but in production limbo, claims a similar 1.9 seconds to 60 m.p.h. If claims hold true, they would become the first showroom cars to break the two-second mark from 0 to 60.

For builders or buyers, that obsession with 0-to-60 times can be reductive. They describe only short-burst, straight-line speed. Move to winding roads or racetracks, and top gasoline cars still beat comparable E.V.s, handicapped by dead-weight batteries that are quickly bled dry during high-speed bouts. Porsche’s brilliant Taycan sedan holds the production-E.V. lap record on Germany’s benchmark Nürburgring circuit, and zaps 60 m.p.h. in 2.4 seconds. Yet the company’s gas-driven 911 GT2 RS sports car and Panamera Turbo S sedan are decisively faster over the 12.9-mile course.

Jerod Shelby underlined those old-school advantages on Oct. 10 with his SSC Tuatara. On a closed, seven-mile stretch of Highway 160 in Nevada, Mr. Shelby’s fantastical, $1.9 million hypercar — with 1,750 horsepower on E85 gasoline-ethanol fuel — shattered the world speed record for production cars. With the British racer Oliver Webb making the perilous attempt, the Tuatara reached 331.15 m.p.h. on one run, and a 316-m.p.h. average over runs in opposite directions, topping the 304.8-m.p.h. pace of the Bugatti Chiron from September 2019.

Mr. Shelby — no relation to the late Carroll Shelby — plans to build 100 copies of the Tuatara in Washington State. He says that even if most customers never see 150 miles an hour, they can still enjoy the thrilling design and handling, and bragging rights of owning the world’s fastest car.

“Who would have thought, 50 years ago, that someone would be driving a 1,750-horsepower car on the street, that you could drive to dinner with your wife and valet?” Mr. Shelby said. “To us, going over 300 m.p.h. is an amazing marketing tool to show the prowess of our engineering. But this is not a speed we would ever want one of our customers to do.”


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