Carl kept his foot down to set new record
FORMER NASCAR RACER CARL EDWARDS “KEPT HIS FOOT IN IT” TO pilot a heavily-modified Toyota Land Cruiser to a new SUV world speed record of 370km/h (230mph) at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, in May.
Engineers at Toyota USA’S Motorsports Technical Center (MTC) modified a standard Land Cruiser to create the 1491kw (2000hp) record-breaking car.
The Land Speed Cruiser shattered the previous record by more than 30.6km/h (19mph). It reached a Gps-verified and video-documented 230.02mph before running out of usable pavement.
With enough track ahead, the Land Speed Cruiser could be expected to go even faster, says Toyota USA.
“The World’s Fastest SUV record was at 211mph. That’s extremely fast,” says MTC manager, Chuck Wade. “Toyota thought, ‘Why don’t we make a really, ultra-powerful Land Cruiser, and let’s just see how fast we can make it can go.’”
Using the Land Cruiser’s production 5.7-litre V8 engine as a starting point, the team added a pair of volleyball-sized Garrett turbochargers that can produce up to 55psi of boost. The MTC team upgraded the engine’s internals to cope with extreme force induction, fitting sturdier pistons and conrods and a custom-made intake manifold.
That helped ensure the V8 could produce more than 1491kw safely and reliably. The engineers fitted a custom racing transmission strong enough to withstand the stresses and abuses of high power and speeds.
Driving faster than 320km/h challenges a vehicle’s aerodynamics and stability. To aid controllability, the Land Speed Cruiser sits lower to the ground, reducing dramatically the amount of turbulent air allowed to pass underneath.
The wagon’s frame was modified to maintain optimal suspension geometry, and was narrowed by 75mm to accommodate wider Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
Test driver and championship road racer Craig Stanton played a key role in fine tuning the Land Speed Cruiser’s set-up.
“I wanted the Land Speed Cruiser to provide the confidence you need, as a driver, to keep pushing even when the world around you becomes a high speed blur,” he says. “We made some set-up adjustments, and it not only accelerates and shifts more smoothly, but it also has enhanced stability.”
With the Land Speed Cruiser dialled in and finally ready for its recordsetting run, recently retired Toyota NASCAR driver Carl Edwards met the team at the Mojave Air and Space Port which has a four kilometre paved runway.
Before Edwards’ run, Stanton warmed up the SUV, reaching 198mph. On his first run, Edwards hit 211mph, but was running out of pavement to slow the big SUV. More boost was dialled in to increase power, and he tried again.
On the next run, Edwards put the hammer down, and piloted the Land Speed Cruiser to its 230mph record.
“At 225mph, the thing was wandering a little bit. All I could think was that Craig said, ‘No matter what, just keep your foot in it,’ and we got 230mph,” Edwards grinned after setting the record. “It’s safe to say that this is the fastest SUV on the planet.”
Above: Toyota’s Land Speed Cruiser hurtles towards its SUV land speed record in Mojave, California. Right top: Retired NASCAR driver Carl Edwards piloted the Toyota on its record-setting run. Right: Land Cruiser’s 5.7-litre V8 motor was modified heavily for the speed record attempt.