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Porsche 918 tops 350km/h in Top End

Porsche Australia claims Australian-first top speed in NT public road speed trial


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14 Apr 2015

A PORSCHE 918 – the same car that former Formula 1 racer Mark Webber drove at the Australian Grand Prix in March – has been shipped to the Northern Territory, where New Zealander Craig Baird drove the hybrid hypercar to a top indicated speed of 350km/h on the Stuart Highway.

Spotters and two-way radios made sure the path was clear for the top-speed run, before Mr Baird, a former Porsche Carrera Cup champion and Porsche instructor, took the 652kW petrol-electric hybrid up to the speed-limited top of the car’s performance, in what Porsche Australia is claiming as "an achievement no other production car has ever managed on Australian roads”.

“The controlled test took place with a professional driver at the wheel on the only public road in Australia where such a feat is possible – the Northern Territory’s section of straight, open speed highway,” a statement from Porsche read.

Porsche Australia also said that the car – a limited edition known as the 918 Spyder With Weissach Package – drove the 25km from Alice Springs to the start of the derestricted section of the Stuart Highway under electric power.

The mid-engined sportscar is powered by a race-derived 4.6-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol engine, which is complemented by a pair of electric motors that takes the combined power output to 652kW and 1275Nm. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission drives the rear wheels, while the pair of electric motors are attached to the front axle.

At 1700kg, the carbon-fibre-tubbed hypercar’s performance is prodigious, with a 0-100km/h time of just 2.6 seconds and a 0-200km/h time of 19.2 seconds. The car can be plugged in to recharge its battery array, and can be driven in full electric mode for up to 30km. It has a combined range of 680km.

Porsche Australia has form in the Top End it has launched two iterations of its 911 Turbo there, with speeds of 325km/h being recorded by Porsche staff and journalists alike.

A 200-kilometre stretch of the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and the Barrow Creek area has been designated as a derestricted zone since January 2014. Originally designated as a year-long trial, the NT government is considering extending the program even further throughout the Territory.

Open-ended speed limits were banned by the former Territory Labor government in 2006 and replaced by a limit of 130km/h. From that time up until 2012, 307 people have died on Northern Territory roads in the last six years, versus 292 in the six years before the change.

There are plenty of natural speed bumps to make you think twice before speeding through the Top End, however wild brumbies and camels, huge eagles and other wildlife often amble out onto the road, while tourists in motorhomes and locals in ramshackle utes also make life at 300km/h just that bit more interesting.

The 918 will do a whistlestop tour of east-coast Porsche dealers before being sent back to Germany. All 918 production slots have been sold, with a couple rumoured to be winging their way back to Australia over the next year.

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