Flat out on the Flats

Fri, 4 November 2005, 03:07

BAR Honda’s attempt to set a land speed record has moved from the first choice venue, the famous Bonneville Salt Flats to the Mojave Desert.

The team’s plan to the attempt to set a speed record for a Formula One car ran into problems earlier this month when the famous salt flats suffered some of the highest rainfall recorded in recent years. A speed of over 400kph (around 250 mph) is anticipated, and pre-record testing has gone well, despite the extremely rough conditions of the flats. In recent years the salt flats of Bonneville, in Utah, have been suffering after years of mining, and running there has become severely limited, and so the team have now elected to move to Mojave Airport, just north of Los Angeles.

The Mojave Desert is also home of the Edwards Air Force base, where stuntman Stan Barrett drove the infamous Budweiser Rocket to a claimed speed in excess of the speed of sound, but there is some doubt to this, and the team failed to follow the regulations to claim a land speed record from the FIA. Now the airport where BAR are to run, is home to the first civilian ‘spaceport’ following the exploits of Mike Melvill in the privately built “Spaceship One” just over a year ago, and has a three kilometre long runway, said to be perfect for the F1 speed attempt.

BAR Honda are quick to play down the record breaking task, however, stating that any forthcoming runs won’t be officially timed. A spokesperson for the team said, “It will be an important occasion, but this is just part of the journey.”

The car that B.A.R Honda hope will set the record will run for the very first time today (Friday 4 November) where driver Alan van der Merwe will debut the specially-prepared car, and although not an official attempt, the team plan to run the car as hard as possible on the 10,000-foot tarmac runway.

“The most important thing is we check that all the systems on the car are working properly,” explained the spokesman. “There are a lot of new bits on it that we need to assess. It will be an important occasion, but this is just part of the journey. Setting an official F1 land speed record at Bonneville, via the average of out-and-back runs through a measured mile, is still our number one goal – even if we have to wait until next year to do it.”

The attempt will be some way short of any official records. The 400 kph barrier was broken as far back as February 24, 1932, when Malcolm Campbell recorded 404.49 kph (251.34 mph) on Daytona Beach, USA, and the current record for wheel driven cars stands at speed of 458.440mph for the flying mile, but with changes to the car in ten major areas, including aerodynamics, suspension, and transmission, it cannot be faulted as an engineering project, and of course there is always the possibility that what is learnt during the attempt, could aid the team in circuit racing, if not now, one day.

Steve Holter

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