by Carl Fausett
The preparation for a high-speed test like this is relatively simple, but the build (which took over 10 years) was not. My 928 was born a 1978 Euro model with 220 hp, but the engines I’d built for this car evolved slowly over time. First, my crew and I learned how to make 560 bhp, followed by 880 bhp, reached a plateau at 960 BHP, then finally figured out what was holding us back and jumped to 1,114 bhp, with corresponding durability mods on the evolving transmission (a Tremec TR-6060), and aero mods to keep the car from becoming a wingless aircraft at speed. At this point she became known as “The Meg,” as in “megalodon,” the baddest shark that ever lived.
I’d set a 928 record of 216.635 mph at Bonneville in 2011 and returned five times in subsequent years trying to best that record, but always encountered bad weather, poor salt conditions, or both, which made it impossible to do so. I then committed to finding a paved venue where I could try again. Months of searching followed, including racetracks, abandoned airstrips, and tire testing grounds—most were either too short or flat-out refused to allow such a high-speed test—before we found Ohio’s Transportation Research Center (“TRC”), with its 7.5-mile paperclip-shaped oval with parabolic corners at each end. Their top lane was intended to be driven at 140 mph, but could be driven faster, if necessary.
The morning of our scheduled test was cold and wet, with a fog lingering behind the storm front. Still, the Weatherman predicted “sunny and dry” for the afternoon and we were betting heavily on him being right. Our first meeting with the TRC track staff was at 10 AM, where we discussed the speed trap placement, track conditions, and slight track bumps just after the Corner 2 exit. Their Tech Chief then inspected the car, installed an instrument package to transmit technical data to the pits, and encouraged me to “take it easy” during my first track session at noon.
My plan was to take Lap 1 at around the 150 mph mark, to study the course, looking for landmarks for braking zones, corner entry marks, etc. I planned to take Lap 2 at about 190, to feel out the stability of the car and to make sure the aero package was appropriate. After that, I’d go from there. We had a 2:00 PM session planned, with a forecast of 62 degrees and sunny, so that’s when I planned to do my “hero” run. By noon, though, it was 58 degrees and the course was still wet; far from ideal.
When I left the pits, I took a position in the center lane of the three lanes provided and began my 150 mph run. This lap would also serve to bring my engine and transaxle fluids up to temp, as well as to put some heat into the tires. Although necessary, I was more than happy to move into the left lane for my 190 mph test lap. This lap meant my first use of the high lane on the parabolic curves, where the angle of the pavement varied from 28 to 36 degrees depending on how close to the outer guardrail I wanted to get. The parabolic corners were interesting and different from the counter clock-wise turning Daytona tri-oval that I was used to. Still, even at this speed all the G-forces were down into the seat with almost no lateral load on this clock-wise course.
It’s worth noting that the TRC technicians had set up our Tag-Heuer speed trap within 20 feet of the entrance to the third corner, leaving me very little room to slow down before corner entry. We had discussed setting up the speed trap farther from the corner so that I could drop some speed before I had to start turning, but their placement made the straight effectively 100 yards longer, helping me to achieve my maximum velocity if I could handle the corner that fast.
Back to the drive. Exiting the North corner I headed east straight towards the speed trap, breaking the light beams at 193.01 mph and entering the south corner. The car felt grounded and predictable, so when I exited the corner to run past the pits, I pressed into full throttle for the first time. I was in 6th gear, and the car accelerated smoothly past the 200 mph mark, still accelerating. I glanced toward my crew and the TRC employees at the transporter and smiled as they cheered and waved. When I turned back to look at my instrumentation, I was surprised to see the speedometer hit 230 mph: I had just set a new speed record without really meaning to! Frankly, it also seemed a bit anticlimactic after all the years of build, development, and preparation.
Still, I had broken the speed record in the wrong place, because the speed trap was on the other side of the oval. Only the VBox GPS speedometer had any proof of what had just happened, and I wanted confirmation of whatever my final speed was to be by the more accurate Tag-Heuer speed trap located track-side. A new thought came to me; that although this was just meant to be a warm-up session and the real test would be this afternoon on dry pavement, I thought it was possible that something could break on the car and I might not get another chance at all. Given that, I thought I should put down one “hero” lap while I was out here right now.
Entering the north corner at 190 mph, I worked my way along the guard rail until I was halfway through the corner where I started to roll into the throttle. I was at full throttle well before the corner ended and exited like a shot. This was to be it – my first real top-speed attempt here and I nailed that throttle to the deck and stood on it. I found those humps in the track that they told me about, and they threw the car up and down a bit, but each time, the Meg settled back down right away and showed no signs of floating. Good news. Racing down the east straight toward the speed trap, I saw the speedometer climb through 200, 210, 220, and 230 mph between watching the road and looking for the pylons that were set up at the two light-beams. I steeled myself that I would need to stay on the throttle until after I broke the second beam, and then I’d have to deal with whatever that meant in the corner immediately behind it. With my last glance at the speedo I thought I saw the number 233 come up, but now I was entering the 140-mph corner very hot and had my hands full.
At first, I took a little too much out of the throttle and the car got squirrely before I put some thrust back and straightened it out. In the end, I ended up going around that curve in the mid 220’s and it all worked out. From there I came down off the wall and onto the straight to join the fellas waiting in the pits. They were surprised to see me as I had planned to stay out for 6 laps, but I had done what I meant to do and wanted to save the car for the afternoon session. When the numbers came in over the radio that I’d gone 234.434 mph in the trap and from the VBox, (and they matched!) there was a lot of hooting and hollering.
When we calmed down we started thinking about how we could get a little more out of it in our next session, and among the ideas was to harden the tires by another 5 psi so that there would be a little less rolling resistance. Lance set about doing that, and that’s when we discovered that two of the four CV joint boots had torn away, and their grease had been thrown out. Those CV joints, (the left side outer and the right side inner) were now running dry. We discussed a number of options including throwing some grease in there, pushing them back in place and clamping them up – but no confidence was expressed in that repair at these speeds with torn boots. I had one replacement boot in the truck, but even that would require removing the axle from the car, replacing the boot on the workbench, and re-assembly and re-installation in about 30 minutes before our next track session was to begin. There really was no way to get this done. The only other thought was to go ahead and run the Meg with two dry CV joints, but the consensus of the engineers was that the CV joints would likely gall or possibly even seize, and the failure of those CV joints and the axles they were attached to at these speeds would likely be catastrophic. So, the decision was made to stop where we were and take what we had and a healthy car back home. Was I ever glad I decided to do a hot lap before I came in!
While not the fastest Porsche in the world, our 234.434 mph this day did place The Meg in rare company as one of the fastest Porsche’s on the planet, and also set a solid closed-course record any 928 owner can be proud of.