We talk racing Bugatti to 300mph and more with John Hennessey

07th March 2018
Bob Murray

Who makes the world’s fastest car? It’s a question that John Hennessey, on a stand at the Geneva Motor Show bearing his name for the first time, is keen to answer. His new Venom F5 making its debut here is touted to be the first production road car designed to clock 300mph – which would indeed make it the world’s fastest... 


But first, he has to show a clean pair of heels to both Bugatti and to Koenigsegg, the current record-holders with 277.9mph. It’s quite an aspiration for a Texas tuning shop that specialises in endowing home-grown muscle cars and pickup trucks with more power – anything up to 2000bhp.

But for 10 years now Hennessey has also made its own bespoke supercars and is no stranger to driving them fast: in 2014 the Venom GT hit 270mph on the Space Shuttle runway, in one direction at least. The successor to the GT is the Geneva-starring Venom F5, the car finally to win the top speed title for the Lone Star State, says John.

Boldly yellow, the F5 in Geneva is a design model only but when it gets an engine (later this year) it will be an entirely bespoke 8.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 churning out 1600bhp.

The rear-drive car weighs 1,360kg, has a Cd of 0.33 and is predicted to get from 0-186mph in “about 10 seconds, same as last year’s F1 cars”, on its way to that 300mph v-max. Only 24 cars are going to be made, they cost US$1.6m apiece and, John tells GRR, eight are already sold.

GRR met John on his Geneva show stand – just across the aisles from his French and Swedish rivals – to find out more about his plans… including when we are next going to see a Hennessey car ripping up the tarmac at Goodwood…


How important is it that you are the fastest?

It’s important that we try. Important that we have that goal, that we are motivated and focused. It forces us to build better cars. Our cars, our culture and the company will be better for it. 

Is 300mph a personal dream of yours? 

It just seems like the next mountain to climb. People need a story and 300mph is our story. Pagani’s story is about (automotive) jewellery; Koenigsegg’s is the Dr Evil fast car from Sweden; Ferrari’s is all about Ferrari. Our story is 300mph. 

When and where will you try for the title?

We will challenge for it in 2019. We are a Texas company and would like to do it on a Texas highway – we have done it before, on a new road not yet open to the public. Or we will go to Nevada and use the road that Koenigsegg used.


The others won’t give up without a fight…

You can be sure Bugatti (with the Chiron) will go faster, probably 280mph. A little guy like me or Chris (von Koenigsegg) doing what we are doing does not sit well with Bugatti, especially the German engineers. I would say speeds will go back and forth for a while, then when the dust has settled we will try to beat whatever the number is. We are very confident.

Who will the driver be?

Brian Smith. He’s director of Ford Performance driving school and former Michelin tyre test engineer. The tyres we use will be Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s.

Will you bring the Venom F5 over for the Festival of Speed?

I would like to. Last time I was there was 2011 when we brought the Venom GT over and I rode up the hill in it with one of our pro drivers – it was one of the top things I have ever done in a car. Of all the automotive events I have been to FoS is my favourite, the best of Pebble Beach, Laguna Seca, The Quail all in the one place plus fireworks. And I hear the Revival is even more fantastic.

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