BAR’s attempt to set a speed record for a Formula One car, took another step forward on Saturday when test driver, Alan van der Merwe set a new unofficial speed record at the Mojave Airport in California.
The South African drove the specially modified 007 chassis on three runs at over 400kph, with a fastest speed of 415kph (257.88mph), although this was recorded using an on board Pitot tube, and speed trap set up by the team. The Pitot tube measures air pressure hitting a forward facing tube, as used on aircraft, and the speed trap was a 60 metre, radar triggered system. For any official record the speed will have to be set over a measured mile or kilometre, over two timed runs and in opposite directions.
Gary Savage, Bonneville 400’s technical chief said later, “The car ran perfectly. The day proved how important all the recce work has been, and how important it was to approach this challenge in a proper and professional manner, to show it respect, rather than just turn up on the salt flats, go for it and hope for the best.”
Formula One cars of course, have ALL wind tunnel work carried out running forward, and at open circuits like Silverstone, side winds can seriously upset the balance of a car. The Mojave Airport was no different, with a 45-knot side wind, with gusts up to 60 knots creating problems for both team and driver.
BAR will return to the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah in May of next year to attempt the official record however, after the project’s original attempt was washed out by torrential rain. But Bonneville will also create some other problems for the team. Cars built for the ultimate Land Speed record have used narrow, solid wheels without tyres, and although the salt surface is not abrasive (Malcolm Campbell used tyres with rubber only 0.0025 of and inch thick), the width and diameter of an F1 tyre could affect the end speed, with rolling resistance the biggest single drain on power and speed, and it is likely that the tyres are coming in for a lot of attention from the team engineers.
Savage went on, “It was an encouraging day and we are confident that we can achieve this speed – and more – at Bonneville, but we also know that its salt surface is a much more difficult proposition. The key now is to be patient and wait for the right conditions.”
Of course, as anyone who knows his or her Land Speed Record history will tell you, it is never as simple as that!
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