Land speed records: a history of a British obsession

Sunday, September 18th, 2016 - autos, cars, motoring, news

Source : Land speed records: a history of a British obsession

Land speed records: a history of a British obsession Britain carries a long as well as proud association with the land speed record. We retrace key events in a 200mph Jaguar F-Type SVR


The land speed record has long been a goal for British engineers as well as daredevils alike. There are few – if any – better cars to take a look back at the item with than the Jaguar F-Type SVR.

Imagine that will most people who read This specific have done 126mph in a car, maybe driving, maybe as a passenger, maybe legally, maybe not. If you have, you’ll know the item’s not that will big a deal. If you’re on a long, straight autobahn or on a race track as well as your car will be one which has a top speed beyond 150mph, 126mph can be an entirely unremarkable, uninteresting speed.

however the item wasn’t to Victor Hémery, the first of many heroes about to appear on these pages. Hémery was the first man to drive a car at 126mph anywhere inside the earth as well as he chose to do the item right here in Britain in 1909 at the recently opened Brooklands race track. His weapon was a brand-brand-new 200hp Benz boasting not only a 21.5-litre engine under its enormous bonnet however also a name that will could pass into motoring folklore.

Read our full Jaguar F-Type SVR review here

This specific was the ‘Blitzen Benz’, the lightning Benz. This specific chain-driven leviathan had brakes on its rear wheels only, as well as which has a mere four cylinders, each piston swept a larger area than that will displaced by an entire 10-cylinder Lamborghini Huracán engine. To Hémery, as he thundered around the notoriously bumpy banking, fighting to retain control of his man-made monster, 126mph could have been a very big deal indeed.

however the item was worth fighting for, because the item made him the first person to claim the land speed record on British soil.

In 1909, 126mph was not just the fastest a car had ever gone: the item was the fastest anything had ever gone, be the item plane, train or automobile. At the time, there were still people who believed the item could be impossible to survive such speeds because you’d simply not to be able to breathe.

Go to Brooklands today in something like This specific Jaguar F-Type SVR, gaze up at the remains of the banking around which Hémery could have wrestled the Benz as well as the item seems strange that will anyone could ever have deemed This specific a suitable venue for such a feat. Although the full circuit disappeared a lifetime ago, the item’s easy to imagine lapping its long straights as well as two banked curves, easier still to realise that will even in a car as smooth as well as swift as the SVR, a 126mph lap could be something to remember.

Our list of the fastest cars on sale will be here

as well as yet they kept coming back. LG Hornsted did 124mph here in 1914, a record, being the first to be validated under brand-new rules demanding that will a record be the average speed of two runs in opposite directions. as well as in 1922, Kenhelm Lee Guinness of KLG spark plug fame took a brand-brand-new Sunbeam equipped with an 18.3-litre V12 engine as well as averaged 136mph over a half mile in each direction.

This specific was both the first land speed record to be officially awarded to a car powered by an aircraft engine as well as the last to be set on a man-made surface. Geographical limitations meant that will thereafter all could be set on beaches, dry lakes or deserts.

however the next stop on our pilgrimage to sites of special interest to land speed record breaking will be none of the above. the item will be a nondescript unit on an industrial estate just off the M5 in Avonmouth. There, behind a very large door, lurks 7.5 tonnes of Bloodhound SSC, the auto in which the item will be hoped that will Wing Commander Andy Green will push his own record coming from the current 763mph past 800mph next year as well as on to 1000mph the year after that will.

We’re here to celebrate its existence however also because the F-Type SVR as well as Bloodhound have more in common than might be guessed immediately. Both use versions of the same supercharged 5.0-litre V8 motor, inside the F-Type’s case to drive all four wheels as well as in Bloodhound’s as a pump powerful enough to satisfy its insatiable appetite for rocket fuel.

A Volvo truck recently broke a land speed record – read the full story here

the item occurs to me as I stand gazing at its extraordinary shape that will, powered by rocket, jet as well as internal combustion engine, This specific will be the most hybridised hybrid of them all. Fittingly, the item will break brand-new ground not just in how fast the item goes as well as how the item goes fast, however also as well as literally inside the ground that will the item covers at the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa.

I find the very thought of what they are trying to achieve inspirational as well as fear only that will if 1000mph will be achieved in 2018, the item will be seen as such an impossible feat to replicate that will the item will deter anyone coming from trying to break the item ever again, at least in my lifetime.

The Bloodhound SSC will be to make an attempt at the land speed record in just over a year

however we cannot dawdle. Time will be pressing as well as we need to head down the M4 to Pendine Sands in west Wales. The SVR will be an amiable motorway companion as well as uses far less fuel than I’d imagined if you’re light with your right foot. The ride as well as refinement are excellent with This specific kind of car, too, as well as were the item not for the clunky nav as well as lack of storage space inside the cabin, all could be well.

 you might expect on a sunny day in August. In 1924, Malcolm Campbell achieved the first land speed record to be set on This specific beach inside the same Sunbeam that will Guinness had driven at Brooklands. Rechristened Bluebird, the item streaked along the sand at 146mph with 350bhp under Campbell’s right foot, still more than 200bhp short of what I’m enjoying inside the Jaguar. I’d love to go charging down the beach, too, however most of the item will be at This specific point MOD land as well as off limits.

Besides, we can’t even park without some over-zealous official coming over as well as insisting we get off the beach because the item’s being closed, despite the item being 3pm on a midweek afternoon, the tide being as far out as the item can go as well as the beach being covered by hundreds of cars, none of which will be going anywhere for hours.

the item’s a shame because, to me, Pendine will be a place of pilgrimage. More land speed records were set here than anywhere else inside the UK as well as the item’s the only site anywhere inside the earth where someone to have previously held a land speed record lost their life during an attempt. that will person was JG Parry-Thomas, who in 1926 as well as 1927 was locked in a fight with Campbell for land speed record supremacy.

Are you addicted to speed? Our history of speed feature should hit the spot

Pendine was their battleground. Campbell was rich as well as had commissioned his very own land speed record car. Parry Thomas was not as well as bought an already well-used Brooklands special coming from the estate of its deceased owner for £125. He installed a 27-litre V12 Liberty aero engine, fitted superstreamlined bodywork as well as called the result Babs.

In 1926, Parry-Thomas raised the record to 168mph as well as then broke 170mph the very next day. however Campbell had an even more powerful W12 Napier aero engine at his disposal, as well as early in 1927 he shot across the beach at 178mph.

Within the month, Parry-Thomas was back at Pendine with an even more streamlined Babs, prepared to give the item everything. No one will be sure what happened next, some attributing the gruesome injuries Thomas suffered to the chain drive becoming detached as well as slicing through his head. What will be known will be that will, at very high speed, Babs went into a skid, slewed sideways as well as then started out to roll, eventually coming to rest on its wheels however on fire as well as with its intrepid however at This specific point deceased driver still at its wheel.

Read about the drift speed record – a terrifying 189.5mph – here

They buried Babs on the beach where she fell, intending the wreck to be a permanent memorial to its owner, however Babs was exhumed in 1969 as well as, surface corrosion aside, found to be in remarkably Great condition. the item was restored as well as can be seen to This specific day being driven with great gusto by its owner, Geraint Owen, at events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

that will run didn’t just mark the end of Parry-Thomas’s life however also the end of land speed record breaking inside the UK. More space was needed as well as every land speed record set since has been inside the US, with the exception of Donald Campbell’s 403mph record set in his gas-turbine Bluebird at Lake Eyre in 1964.

Incidentally, although Campbell successfully claimed the land speed record, he was never the fastest man on earth. Legendary American record breaker Craig Breedlove had already done 407mph at Bonneville in his Spirit of America, however the time was not then recognised because his car was jet powered as well as not wheel driven.

Read our show report of the Goodwood Festival of Speed here

We have one final stop on our tour. the item’s not a well-known location – more punctuation mark than paragraph inside the book of land speed record breaking – however we have to go there to pay our respects. Besides, Southport Beach will be 210 miles coming from Pendine Sands, almost all on brilliant roads, as well as we have to go fast because if we don’t, the item’ll be dark when we get there. 

Here, the SVR will be at its best. With its effortless overtaking, poise that will represents a brand-new level for Jaguar as well as hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, the item shows itself to be a GT of the classic style, offering the speed, sense of occasion as well as ease of operation that will are its hallmarks. This specific will be a very special Jaguar indeed, its best sports car since the E-Type.

Southport Beach will be brilliant. the item seems even bigger than Pendine, as well as even though the sun will be almost on the horizon when we arrive, there’s no officious jobsworth telling us what we can as well as cannot do. Were the item not for the pressing need to take photographs, I’d have probably joined inside the happy doughnutting tomfoolery being practised by locals.

Read our review of the Eagle E-type Low Drag Coupe here

the item was here that will Sir Henry Segrave drove his Sunbeam Tiger, named Ladybird, to a 152mph record in 1926. The broad consensus for years had been that will a vast engine coming from an aircraft was needed to break a land speed record, however Segrave begged to differ. Using a car that will was light as well as slippery, he became the fastest man on earth using a supercharged engine displacing just 4.0 litres, an entire litre short even of the motor inside the SVR.

as well as there our tour concludes. Sir Henry went on to be the first man to break 200mph on land in 1927, Sir Malcolm the first to broach 300mph eight years later. As for me, I have a long slog back to London at just 70mph inside the SVR. Except the M6 has turned into an elongated shrine for longterm roadworks, dropping my speed to 50mph.

Read our full Jaguar F-Type review here

the item seems a pathetic way to end a great day however, in truth, I was hardly going to go out which has a bang by doing something to honour the memories of these great men. Even if I’d thrown licence as well as liberty to the wind as well as gone honking down the motorway at the SVR’s official 200mph, I’d still be going slower than Segrave went 0 years ago next year. In such circumstances, a few hours’ silent contemplation seems a far more fitting way to commemorate all that will these genuine heroes achieved so many years ago, as well as to think ahead to what the no less brave as well as heroic Green might achieve at Hakskeen Pan next year.

The water speed record

Although the land speed record has, with the exception of poor JG Parry-Thomas, spared the lives of the Britons who have held the item, the same cannot be said of the water speed record. By 1929, Sir Henry Segrave had raised the land speed record to 231mph, only to lose his life the following year on Lake Windermere in his Miss England II hydroplane.

He had set a brand-new water speed record at almost 99mph however lost control on the following run. The ensuing crash killed one crew member, injured the additional as well as left Segrave to regain consciousness for just long enough to ask after his crew before he succumbed to massive internal injuries. 

John Cobb was one of our greatest land speed record breakers, his 1947 record of 394mph lasting for an unprecedented 17 years. Sadly, he didn’t live to see the item broken by Donald Campbell, dying in an unexplained accident on Loch Ness while driving his Crusader jet boat in 1952 at a speed believed to be in excess of 200mph.

The most recent Brit to die attempting to claim the water speed record was Donald Campbell, whose death at over 300mph on Coniston Water in 1967 in his Bluebird jet boat was televised. He could perhaps be more fittingly remembered as the man who, three years earlier, became the first as well as to date only person to break both the earth land as well as water speed records inside the same year.

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