There’s an innate captivation with high-speed drivers, evoking fighter pilot-like images of yore that bravely pushed unproven machines into speeds unknown.
They subsequently nabbed the production-car speed record, this time certified by Racelogic, following the brand’s previously contentious PR blunders.
This time though, to everyone’s surprise, there wasn’t a professional factory racing driver or a high-speed test pilot behind the wheel; instead sat Dr. Larry Caplin, the first SSC Tuatara private owner, dentist, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Dr. Caplin spoke recently with MOTOR to explain how he found himself driving a car covering a kilometre in under eight seconds.
“I grew up in a family where cars were always something we spent time with and bonded over,” explains Caplin.
“I got my start cleaning a shop where they worked on cars when I was 12 years old: sweeping the floor, scraping grease off the floor and emptying the trash. I then went on to doing brake jobs, exhaust systems, rebuilding alternators and anything else that needed to be done mechanically.
“So I’ve been involved in cars my whole life. Actually, I have a car that my father was the salesman of in 1967. He used to sell cars, he was the salesman and my uncle was the buyer. And I actually restored that car, a ’67 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport – it was the first car I’d ever restored.
“I have a lot of American supercars. I have the last Ultimate Aero ever built, #15 of 15. I also have the last Mosler ever built which happens to be the only Raptor GTR. I have a couple of ’05 Ford GTs, one of which I use as a daily driver – it has about 55,000 miles on it or so. I also have one of the new ones, in a Gulf livery, and I have a Saleen S7 – one of the three twin-turbo competition cars they built.
“I’m also in Ferrari’s Corse Clienti program, so I get to race an FXXK Evo and a 599XX, which are fantastic cars. I have a Lamborghini that I have 112,000 miles on, that also gets daily driven. And then a Portofino, an 812, among other things.”
While the dentist’s car collection may read like a lottery winner’s shopping list, these are by no means mere display pieces.
“Look, I never thought growing up that I would have cars like this, so I drive all of my cars,” Caplin adds
“As a matter of fact, my sidekick who I drive with all the time is my [86kg] South African mastiff. He’s been in almost all of my cars, he rides with me in the Ford GT and the Lamborghini all the time! I show up to work and I’ve got drool down the whole side of the car!” laughs Caplin.
So why an SSC?
“Interestingly, the very first supercar I ever purchased was the Ultimate Aero. So before I had purchased a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini, I had purchased the SSC Ultimate Aero and went from no supercars to basically the fastest car in the world at the time.”
So how does essentially a private car owner prepare to take the place of a professional test pilot?
“Fortunately, I’ve spent about the last five years in that Corse Clienti program with Ferrari where we have the benefit of one-on-one driver training and coaching from Ferrari factory drivers. I’ve also had a lot of conversations with other people including [prior SSC pilot] Oliver Webb, and even Charlie Turner from Top Gear – so understanding their perspective was really helpful input.
“There was a lot of time spent with SSC and everybody involved in it just to make sure that the facility was prepared, the car was prepared and that I was prepared.”
So after all of that preparation, did Caplin find the experience of the run somewhat anticlimactic?
“It was oddly calm,” he admits. “I was not stressed at all, my pulse wasn’t elevated, I was focused. We were very prepared, so it was surprisingly calm. For me, it’s just a place where I can be very present, it’s the only thing that I’m focused on.”
So what’s next for the world’s fastest dentist and SSC?
“This was just us working through testing and we happened to break the record. We’re still working forward. We have not reached the top speed of this car. So we expect to go back out, and I’ll run the car again and re-break my record”.
Their target? That elusive 300 miles per hour (483km/h). As for the timing of when we might see another attempt?
“I would say in the next couple of months” reckons Caplin.
Will Koenigsegg or Hennessey answer the call? Only time will tell.
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