JOHN Hennessey revealed his latest limited-production weapons-grade creation this week, the Hennessey Venom F5, and with it launched a high-speed arms race to crack the 300mph barrier in a street-legal vehicle.
The Texan tuner is taking on European giant Bugatti in a race to the famed triple ton, but there is a significant hurdle which is poised to catch out both parties: Rubber.
While both parties claim their creations are capable of cracking 300mph (482km/h), it’s all theoretical as there isn’t a road tyre in production capable of withstanding the immense loads put through the rubber at that velocity.
When a vehicle is travelling at those sorts of speeds, the forces are immense, and no one has built a tyre which can withstand it safely – certainly not treads which are street legal.
Bugatti’s Chiron is currently electronically limited to 261mph (420km/h), which it claims it can achieve easily – the French monster can reach 400km/h in a scant 32.6 seconds. Hennessey claims the Venom F5 will be capable of 0-400km/h, and back to a standstill in under 30 seconds
But it’s the 82km/h after that which is going to be the biggest challenge for these lovers of speed.
Hennessey has yet to conduct any speed testing in the Venom F5, and doesn’t intend to until next year. In fact, a final production version hasn’t yet been built
The Venom F5 produces 1193kW from a twin-turbo V8, sending power to the rear wheels via a seven-speed single clutch paddle shift transmission, and tips the scales at just 1338kg. Importantly, it also has a drag coefficient of 0.33, making it slipperier than an eel in jelly.
In the other corner is the Chiron, with a quad-turbo eight-litre W16 sending 1103kW to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, tipping the scales at 1996kg.
At its public debut at Sema, the Venom F5 was wearing Pilot Sport 4S tyres. Up front are 19-inch rims with 265/30 rubber, and at the rear is 20-inch wheels wearing 345/30 wrappings.
However, John Hennessey hasn’t locked in a tyre supplier for the final production version, and is currently shopping around different suppliers.
Bugatti has teamed up with Michelin to co-develop tyres capable of withstanding 3800g of centrifugal force.
The Chiron wears boots measuring 285/30 R20 at the front, and 355/25 R21 at the back. Its predecessor, the Veyron, famously wore run-flat Michelins that cost $50,000 a set in order to set the current production car top speed record of 267mph (431km/h).
It has been 30 years since the Ferrari F40 galloped past the 200mph barrier, and now the next great speed achievement is in the sights of two companies with a proven track record in velocity.
But before we witness the 300mph barrier fall to engineering marvels, there is going to be a back-room arms race to construct the tyre needed to get the respective players across the line.
Because of this, it’s unlikely either Hennessey or Bugatti will give the production car record or triple ton a challenge until at least late next year, possibly 2019.