234.434 miles per hour. That’s the mark posted last October at the Transportation Research Center (TRC) test track in East Liberty, Ohio by Carl Fausett, the culmination of his decade-long effort to establish a new top-speed record for Porsche 928s. For those of you taking notes, the name of his record-breaker is “Meg”.
Fausett owns 928 Motorsports LLC in Neenah, Wisconsin, where he develops performance parts for Porsche’s classic GT. We first spoke with him back in 2009 when he told us about his extensively modified coupe, which led to a feature in the May 2010 issue (#182) that discussed his efforts to build a Pikes Peak Hillclimb class winner.
Since its introduction in 1977, fans of the 928 have come to refer to the sleek GT simply as “the shark”, given its aggressive profile. Well, there are sharks, and there are sharks. The Great White is considered the most fearsome creature to prowl the world’s oceans in modern times, but it is a poser compared to its giant prehistoric ancestor, the Megalodon (Otodus megalodon). It’s fitting, then, that Fausett nicknamed his ferocious Euro-spec model 1978 coupe simply “Meg”.
While various 911s have run at Pikes Peak for years, Fausett’s 928, which resembles nothing so much as a NASCAR Cup racer under the skin, was the first of its type to be invited, and it acquitted itself well. In 2007 and again in 2009, Fausett placed third in the Open class and was the quickest two-wheel-drive car to attack the fabled hillclimb.
Fausett’s goal was to build the fastest 928 on the planet, so he made plans to run at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, where his shark could really stretch its legs. In 1986, the late Al Holbert had driven a stock 928 S4 with a mere 234 hp to a hair over 171 mph on the dry lake, allowing Porsche to claim bragging rights as the world’s fastest production car. Now, Fausett wanted to see what a fully built-out 928 could do running on gasoline, like Holbert’s.
In 2010, Fausett paid his first visit to the salt without the car “just to look around and learn.” Bonneville veterans say it usually takes years to figure out the rules and how to best apply them in pursuit of a new class record.
He returned the following year and established a new Porsche 928 speed record of 216.635 mph, topping the old record by eight miles per hour in spite of traction trouble on the loose salt that caused tire slip. Fausett knew his car was capable of a lot more if he could just get the power down. His Vortech-supercharged and intercooled engines, which had been bored and stroked to 6.54-liters, had undergone several transformations.
Power grew from 560 to 880 horsepower in 2009 and then 960. He still wanted more, though. Over the following years, he managed to coax 1,114 hp out of the 32-valve DOHC Porsche V8 with 20 pounds of boost. After he tore up a few transmissions, he installed a beefed-up Tremec six-speed to handle the power.
The year 2012 found Fausett and his crew back on the salt, with additional ballast to help improve traction. This time the nylon ballistic blanket surrounding the bellhousing caught fire when it touched the headers.
“The on-board fire suppression system put it out, but once the bottle was empty, we had to go home as we had no spare,” explains Fausett. In 2013 and ’14 Bonneville was either rained out or the lake was flooded and unusable. The mid-to-late 2010s brought more of the same. He returned his 928 to NASA road-racing configuration and focused on that for the next few years. Fausett gave Bonneville another try in 2019.
“Again, it rained; the salt was soft and bumpy,” he says. “We sat around for eight days in the hopes the salt would dry enough that we could race. At the end of the week, I took ‘Meg’ out for one run and was only able to get 158.557 mph out of it because the salt was so soft the car was sinking into it. Everybody had the same problem.” Tired of wet or soft salt, he began looking for a paved location.
He found just one facility available and willing to participate in the effort: The 7.5-mile Transportation Research Facility high-banked oval in west-central Ohio. In preparation, changes were made to the bodywork; a full bellypan and side skirts, a full-width rear air diffuser, and an extended rear spoiler reminiscent of an NHRA Pro Stock drag racer. Final dyno testing showed the engine developing 1,132 hp with 956 lb-ft of torque. Next came the challenge of putting all that power down on the race track.
The TRC has four lanes on the front straight and five on the back straight with banked corners.
“Their top lane was intended to be driven at 140 mph,” says Fausett, “but they said it could be driven at 200 mph if need be.” Fausett reserved two one-hour track sessions for October 5th, 2020 at a cost of $7,000, which included all the extra personnel and equipment necessary.
The morning of the scheduled test dawned cold and wet. It had rained a day or two before, and a heavy fog lingered in the area, recalls Fausett. “Still, we left the motel and drove the last few miles to get set up. I noted that the GPS speedometer in the transporter wasn’t working; ‘Damn it! The fog is so thick that the GPS cannot find any satellites,’ I said, worrying that meant the GPS in the car wouldn’t be able to work either. This stuff has to burn off.” Forecasters predicted sunny skies by the afternoon.
Setting up for a high-speed attempt entails a lot of work, ranging from discussing track conditions with the test track staff, figuring out where to place the TAG-Heuer speed trap and other technical details. The TRC crew inspected the car for safety and installed an on-board instrumentation package that would send acceleration, deceleration, lateral G data, and speed via telemetry to the pits.
“I was told to ‘take it easy’ during my first track session at noon,” recalls Fausett, “and I promised them that I would. My first lap would likely be around the 150 mph mark while I studied the course and looked for landmarks to indicate braking zones and corner entry marks—the usual stuff.” He planned to run a second lap at about 190 to test stability and feel out how his aerodynamic setup was working. Then he’d start pushing it.
His target was to go for the record during the 2:00 p.m. session, anticipating a dry course and air temperatures around 62 degrees. At this time, however, it was still in the upper 50s and the surface, especially the corners, remained wet. Exiting the pits, he moved to the center lane of the three provided and began his first 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,” says Fausett. He had fitted 225/40ZR-18 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 XL rubber on the front rims and 265/35ZR-18s on the rears. “This will seem crazy narrow to road racers,” he continues, “especially at 1,132 hp, but land speed racing is different, and a wide tire increases frontal area and drag. All tires had to fit in and under the fenders.” Fausett avoided wheel-spin by gently “rolling on the throttle” as he accelerated away in the lower gears.
“Although necessary, this was boring as all get-out, so I was happy to move into the left lane for my 190 mph test lap,” he says. “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 counterclockwise 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 clockwise course.”
Fausett points out that the TRC technicians had set up the speed trap within 20 feet of the entrance to the third corner, leaving him almost no room to slow down before corner entry.
“We had discussed setting up the speed trap perhaps 100 yards before the corner so that I could drop some speed before I had to start turning, but they were all about helping us achieve our speed goals and thought this would be better,” says Fausett. The timers asked him if he wanted the lights moved, but Fausett figured their placement gave him an extra 100 yards to reach his terminal velocity—assuming he could just handle entering the corner so fast. So he decided to leave the lights where they were and see if he could drive it.
Fausett continues the story: “Exiting the north corner, I drove down the east straight towards the speed trap, breaking the light beams at 193.01 mph and then entered the south corner. The car felt very stable and predictable. No issues. When I exited the south corner to run up past the pits where everybody was watching, I decided to give the boys something to smile about and pressed into full throttle for the first time.” Meg was in sixth gear, and the car accelerated smoothly past 200 mph and beyond.
“I took a quick look at my crew and the TRC staff gathered at the transporter and smiled as they cheered and waved. When I turned back to look at my instrumentation, I saw the speedometer say ‘230 mph’ for the first time and was surprised. I had just set a new speed record without really even meaning to.” It was all rather accidental, he says, leaving him with the sense that it was very anticlimactic after all the years of construction, development, and preparation. It was also unofficial since he had broken the speed record in the wrong place! The speed trap was on the opposite side of the oval.
“Only the V-box 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,” says Fausett. Then it occurred to him that although this was just meant to be a warm-up session and the real test would be a few hours later on dry pavement, he thought it was possible that something could break and he might not get another chance. He decided to make one more lap flat-out before coming in.
“Entering the north corner at 190 mph,” he continues, “I worked my way along the guard rail until I was halfway through and then gently rolled 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. I nailed the throttle to the deck and stood on it.” Again, the car moved around a bit, but each time it settled back down and showed no signs of floating, building Fausett’s confidence. Hurtling down the east straight toward the speed trap, the speedometer climbed through 200, 210, 220, and 230 mph.
“I was looking for the pylons that were set up at the two light beams,” says Fausett. “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. With my last glance at the speedo, I thought I saw the number 233 come up. But now I was entering the corner very hot and had my hands full.”
Fausett didn’t dare touch the brakes, which would upset the car’s balance.
“All I could do was a slight and slow lift off the throttle,” he recalls. “The car responded by getting a little squirrely, but some rapid steering wheel corrections along with putting some of that throttle back on straightened her out. In the end, I ended up going around that ‘140 mph’ curve in the mid 220s. From there, I came down off the wall and onto the straight to rejoin everyone in the pits.”
He says the crew was surprised; everyone expected him to take six laps, but he had done what he meant to do and wanted to save the car for the afternoon session with the dry pavement and better weather. When the numbers came in over the radio that he’d gone 234.434 mph in the trap and from the V-box (and they matched!), there was a lot of celebrating.
Had Meg given all it could, or was there still more available? After everyone calmed down, they discussed strategy for the afternoon session. Among the ideas were: adding throttle sooner to exit the last corner at a higher speed, laying the rear spoiler down a bit more, and adding another five pounds of air to the tires so that there would be a little less rolling resistance.
“The crew set about doing that, and that’s when we discovered that two of our four CV joint boots had torn away, and their grease had been thrown out,” explains Fausett. “Those CV joints 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. I had a single 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 joints and the axles they were attached to at these speeds would likely be catastrophic. So, the decision was made to stop where they 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!” enthuses Fausett.
A post-run autopsy in the shop soon revealed the reason behind the boot failure. The car was lowered to only an inch off the deck for maximum ground-effect of the under-car aero package. It had worked just as intended.
“Unfortunately,” explains Fausett, “lowering the car that much increased the angle of the half-shafts beyond their intended range. The boots did not tear like we first thought, but the high angularity caused them to be pulled off their moorings—they simply could not stretch that far at those speeds.”
But the question remained: Was there more in the car?
“The answer came back from my aerodynamicist that the top speed of the car that day (factoring in the weather) was 235.0 mph,” Fausett summed up. “My terminal velocity was 234.434 mph. It would have taken another 1,500 meters of race track and 16 seconds of open throttle to go from 234 to 235. So, that told me that (a) we got it all, and (b) deciding not to go out onto the track with damaged axles—we sure thought about it!—was a good decision. There was very little to be gained and way too much to be lost.”
Fausett and Meg thus came home with the outright 928 speed record. Says Fausett: “If it’s going to be broken again, it will need to be by someone else. But that’s what records are for.”