Hunan Province, China - When we featured Le Man 24 Hours winner Ho-Pin Tung’s astonishing drive up the 999 stairs to Heaven‘s Gate on Tianmen Mountain, eight kilometres south of Zhangjiajie, we mentioned that just getting there is an adventure.
It includes the world’s longest (and steepest) monorail skytram ride and the seriously scary Tianmen Mountain Road (known as the Dragon Road), with its 99 hairpin bends and 1100 metres of elevation in just 11.3 kilometres.
To some people, however, the words ‘seriously scary’ are nothing less than a challenge. They include Fabio Barone, president of the official Ferrari fan club. In July 2016 he drove his Ferrari 458 Italia from the skytram station at the bottom to the stairway entrance at the top in just 10m31s, and proclaimed himself the Dragon Road record holder.
Naturally, Tung, who despite his name is actually Dutch, looked askance at that. He knew full well that the stairway drive Range Rover PHEV, torquey though it is, lacks the ultimate pace to challenge Barone’s mark - but the Range Rover Sport SVR… that might be a different story.
The Sport SVR is the raunchiest Rangie yet, with a five-litre supercharged petrol V8 rated at 423kW and 700Nm, increased use of lightweight materials, and uprated chassis and suspension damping hardware for more dynamic responses, reduced pitch under heavy acceleration and braking, and better turn-in, mid-corner grip and body control.
On the level, it’s good for 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and 280km/h, but that’s not what the Dragon Run is all about. Barone’s time equates to an average speed of only 64.47km/h, in a car that weighs just 1475kg ready to go. The Range Sport SVR weighs more than 2.3 tons even with the optional carbon-fibre bonnet - would it be agile enough for the tight and twisty Dragon Road, and would it have the roadholding to stay on it?
In the event, Tung not only broke Barone’s record, he smashed it with a time of 9m51s, at an average speed of 68.8km/h. And if that doesn’t sound very impressive, watch the video. It is, as we said, seriously scary.