Racing up the Tianmen Mountain in China is a death-defying feat in itself.
A fearless driver needs to master no fewer than 99 hairpin bends with drops of more than 4,000 feet on the other side for just over seven miles of treacherous tarmac.
A specially adapted Ferrari supercar had previously set a time of 10 minutes and 31 seconds in September 2016 – but that’s been thoroughly obliterated in the last few weeks… and by a Range Rover you could use on the school run.
Tongtian Highway, also known as the ‘Dragon’s Road’ because of the tail-like twists and turns, is widely regarded as one of the deadliest routes on the planet, making it prime for against-the-clock attempts to set record times.
The vehicle that’s just taken the title isn’t a specially-crafted lightweight racer – it’s a 2.3-tonne souped-up Range Rover Sport SVR you can buy in showrooms today.
Piloted by Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Formula E driver Ho-Pin Tung, the supercharged 4X4 set a new record by reaching the finish line at the peak of the seven-mile road in 9 minutes and 51 seconds.
That’s an average speed of 42.8mph to scale the 1,519-metre-high mountain in the Zhangjiajie National Park in the northwestern part of Hunan Province of China.
The record trimmed a full 40 seconds off the previous fastest time set by Fabio Barone, president of the Ferrari Club Passione Rossa of Italy, in a Ferrari 458 supercar less than two years ago.
Record breaker: A collection of stunning images showed the Range Rover Sport being navigated up the treacherous mountain route
The route, known as the Dragon’s Road because of its twisting, tail-like, turns, has drops of over 4,000 feet if you drive off course
The mountain road, which was built between 1998 and 2006, is made up of no fewer than 99 hairpin bends – a couple you can see in this image
The miraculous record was achieved shortly after Land Rover’s new Range Rover Sport Plug-In Hybrid completed the same course in February.
The plug-in SUV navigated the route – and a 45-degree staircase of 999 steps up to the Heaven’s Gate cave at the mountain summit – in 22 minutes and 41 seconds, as we reported last month.
However, the rapid pace in which the SVR – which retails for £99,680 – managed the spaghetti-like mountain road this time round is arguably the greater achievement of the two, especially considering how perilous the course is when driving at a blistering pace.
The previous record was help by Fabio Barone, president of the Ferrari Club Passione Rossa of Italy, who set the time in September 2016
Rather than a family SUV, his car of choice was a specially adapted Ferrari 458 Italia with a lightweight chassis
Barone set a time of 10 minutes and 31 seconds – some 40 seconds slower than Formula E driver Ho-Pin Tung managed in the Range Rover
According to dangerousroads.org, a database of the most treacherous roads in the world, the highest point is 4,265 feet above sea level. In fact, the starting line at the bottom is already 656 feet above sea level.
The road was first constructed in 1998 and took eight years to complete at the cost of $16.2 million.
Due to the high elevation of the mountain, the day time is longer than night hours. The sunrise on the mountain is 30 minutes earlier and the sunset is some 45 minutes later than it is in the nearest city, according to reports.
Look at that drop: The Tongtian Highway is widely regarded as one of the most deadly roads in the world, and you can see why
The Range Rover SVR might be a family SUV, but it does pack a punch. With 567bhp, it’s 5bhp more powerful than the Ferrari that held the record before it
The Dragon’s Road took eight years to complete and cost a whopping $16.2 million by the time it was finished in 2006
It may be an SUV but it has the performance and agility of a supercar and can take you to places a supercar can only dream of
Ho-Pin Tung, who was also at the wheel of the Range Rover Sport Plug-In Hybrid for the earlier challenge, said: ‘I am used to the high speeds of racing but this was even more demanding.
‘Maintaining concentration was the biggest challenge as the road twists and turns constantly, with huge drop-offs to the side.
‘The consequences of getting it wrong would have been really serious so I focused on establishing a rhythm and the Range Rover Sport SVR made this easy – it may be an SUV but it has the performance and agility of a supercar and can take you to places a supercar can only dream of.’
At the wheel was Ho-Pin Tung, Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Formula E driver who is also employed by the British manufacturer as an official test driver of its most extreme models
Tung completed the 7-mile course at an average speed of 42.8mph. The route scales 1,519-metres up the Tianmen Mountain in the Zhangjiajie National Park in the northwestern part of Hunan Province of China
The Range Rover Sport SVR is the fastest Land Rover ever produced for the road and can hit a top speed of 174mph
The 5.0-litre V8 supercharged engine in the Range Rover Sport SVR produces 567bhp and makes it the fastest Land Rover ever produced for the road.
It can accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 4.5 seconds, has a top speed of 174mph and weighs almost twice as much as the Ferrari it took the Tongtian Highway title from.
Here’s how the two vehicles compare on paper…
RANGE ROVER SPORT SVR VS FERRARI 458 ITALIA
Range Rover Sport SVR
Engine: 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic paddleshift manual
Acceleration 0-62 mph: 4.5 seconds
Maximum Speed: 176mph
Fuel economy (combined): 22.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 294g/km
Boot space: 780 litres
Ferrari 458 Italia
Engine: 4.5-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: 7-speed twin-clutch paddleshift manual
Acceleration 0-62 mph: 3.4 seconds
Maximum speed: 202mph
Fuel economy (combined): 20.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 307g/km
Luggage compartment: 230 litres
*The Ferrari used in the record attempt in 2016 was modified and lighter than the manufacturer claimed figure
CARS & MOTORING: ON TEST