Memorial Day Weekend; it's a feast for speed freaks. At Indy, Dario Franchitti splashed his way to an emotional win in the 500. Down NASCAR way, Casey Mears won the Coca-Cola 600 under Charlotte lights. And before most people on the West Coast had awakened, McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton obliterated the Formula 1 competition on the streets of Monaco, sweeping the top spots on the podium.
With all that action, who needed to get away from the TV?
We did; we had some fun of our own planned. On the 15,500-ft. north runway of the Naval Air Station Lemoore in California's San Joaquin Valley, with the assistance of the U.S. Navy, we staged another big performance contest -- a test of unbridled acceleration from a standing start to 200 mph. Six supercars, with one simple mission: to hit 200 mph as quickly as possible. Call it the World's First Supercar Drag Race.
Some of you may recall the Standing Mile test we did at NAS Lemoore for our September 2005 issue. This test is different. No race cars or motorcycles this time, just six very potent cars -- some stock, some heavily tuned, but all on DOT tires -- each with a claimed top speed in excess of 200 mph. Each is a car you could conceivably see on the street. And one of them, to our giddy delight, is the almighty Bugatti Veyron 16.4. Just to see that technology-packed 1001-bhp supercar slingshot down the strip was reason enough to make the 250-mile drive to Lemoore.
But we also had five other impressive cars capable of hitting the double-century mark. Our Italian quota was satisfied by a beautiful pearlescent yellow Lamborghini Murciélago, on loan from James Chen, owner of Axis Wheels. From Germany, a Ruf Rt 12, painted Yellow Bird Yellow and -- in the proper Ruf tradition -- driven to the test by its owner, John Lotz. Although Ferrari and Lamborghini turned down our invitation to participate in the test, Mercedes-Benz gladly supplied us with an SLR McLaren. And on the tuner front, we were delighted to have an 880-bhp twin-turbo Lingenfelter C6 Corvette on hand, plus one of John Hennessey's Venom 1000 Twin Turbo Vipers, a coupe making 1100 peak horsepower at the rear wheels. To underscore the potency of our group, consider this: We had a Porsche 911 Turbo at our office at the time, but it wasn't welcome. Too slow; its top speed is only 193 ...
Also, bear in mind that it takes gobs of power to reach 200 mph. The air resistance grows with the square of speed. Stick your hand out the side window of your car at 60 mph and feel the resistance. At 180, that force will be nine times stronger, should you be foolish enough to give it a try. Don't. And at 200, it will have more than 11 times the force! What's more, because the power requirement of a car grows with the cube of speed, this means it will need 37 times more power to go 200 mph than to maintain 60. It boggles the mind.
Our test driver, as before, was Steve Millen, who's no stranger to life at 200. In fact, at Le Mans in 1990, the Americanized Kiwi recalls that his Nissan R90CK hit 200-plus mph four times per lap. Joining Steve and the rest of the R&T crew at Lemoore was Gary Ruede from Discount Tire, who made sure all the tires were in excellent shape, properly rated for the speeds and loads we'd see, and inflated to safe pressures.
Our instructions to Steve were simple: Launch the car as best you can, drive it like you own it, and take it to 200 mph as quickly as possible. If the car hits 200 before one mile, continue accelerating through the mile so we can get a standing-mile result. If the car doesn't reach 200 by one mile, continue accelerating until it hits that speed. At the 2-mile marker, however, Steve must slow, no matter the speed reached. Remember, at 200 mph, a car travels 293.3 feet per second, nearly the length of a football field. This way, we had plenty of cool-down room and no need for heavy braking.
Before attending our test via these pages -- or by checking out the fantastic videos on our website -- close your eyes for a moment and envision these cars thrusting off the line, leaving small wispy piles of black tire dust on the concrete. As the cars streak down the Lemoore runway, they're reduced to tiny dots on the horizon by about a mile, then they soon disappear. Is it the curvature of the earth causing this? Or the shimmering heat waves? We're not sure, but you'll still be hearing the engines at full song as the cars streak to 200, their tires slapping out an ever-quickening tempo on the runway's sectional concrete surface. The image is surreal, not unlike the otherworldly acceleration of these supercars. Now the cars, in ascending order of performance, based on 0-200mph times.