Tuesday, August 25, 2009

BSCC "Vaporizes" Two World Land Speed Records

One important milestone was passed successfully when the British Steam Car was inspected by representatives from the Southern Timing Association and the FIA (the international governing body of motor sport) and declared eligible to attempt the world steam car record. The record runs commenced this morning at 6am PT. [ctrl-click to launch in car video of a test run on Rogers Dry Lake Bed] Image & Video Credit: Don Wales – Test Driver, BSCC

BSCC "Vaporizes" Two World Land Speed Records

Today, two World Land Speed Records and one unofficial fastest top speed were established by the British Steam Car Challenge (BSCC), in the Rogers Dry Lake Bed (Edwards Air Force Base, Mojave, California). 139.843 mph by Charles Burnett III for the measured mile, 148.308 mph by Don Wales for the measured kilometer, and an unofficial fastest top speed ever set for a human-driven steam-powered vehicle of over 155mph set by Don Wales.

These new speed records were observed and documented on-site by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and is awaiting official approvals. The FIA is the governing body for world motor sport, and recognizes a world land speed record as the average speed of two passes made across the same measured distance in opposing directions within 60 minutes of each other. The time of the two runs is then averaged to obtain the official recorded speed.

The BSCC is a mission formed to make something solid out of controlling, well ... vapor. The mission focuses on capturing new world land speed records (for both the measured mile and kilometer). Their most recent attempts to beat the longstanding 106-year-old land speed records have been ongoing since the end of June 2009, when the British Steam Car arrived by container ship at the Port of Los Angeles.

The steam car is fitted with 12 boilers, which work like a kettle on a stove. LPG in the vehicle’s tanks ignite in order to produce about three megawatts of heat, to boil 140 litres of distilled water which produces the requisite steam. The water’s then pumped into the boilers at 50 litres a minute to superheat steam to 400C, which is then transmitted to the supercar’s turbines at twice the speed of sound to gather enough momentum and thrust to push the car to mesmerizing speeds of over 200mph. [ctrl-click diagram to launch video of an engine test at Rogers Dry Lake base camp, Edwards AFB, Mojave, CA] Image Credit: BSCC

Prior to today's record-setting, the British Steam Car Challenge Team had successfully carried out 5 full test runs in excess of 100mph in their summer-long project conducted at Edwards.

Last week, after numerous setbacks, the team was rewarded with their preparations on Saturday having unofficially posted a mark greater than Fred Marriott record set in the Stanley Steam Racer - called the "Stanley Rocket". The BSCC team's own calibrated equipment measured the two-way average at 137.14mph, and a 48min 52 second turn-around.

Then, of course, there was the additional unofficial success of Monday's mark of 148mph. This was significant because the mark eclipses the fastest speed ever recorded by any human-driven, steam-powered vehicle, official or unofficial ... a mark set by Bob Barber in 1985 on the salt flats at Bonneville, Utah (unofficial) stood at 145.607mph.

British Steam Car Challenge Logo - Image Credit: BSCC

The BSCC team have acknowledged the achievements of the "Barber-Nichols Team" and their vehicle "Steamin' Demon". On 18th August 1985 The Barber-Nichols Team carried out three successful passes and achieved an American National Record at 145.607mph. There was no attempt, however, to establish an FIA record by the Barber-Nichols Team and it is the goal of the British Steam Car Challenge to recognize this speed, or better, as the target FIA record mark to set.

The principal driver of the BSCC is the nephew of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, Charles Burnett III. Burnett was born in England in 1956 and educated in South Africa and America, and as a legitimate tri-national (his mother was Canadian and his father American) he inherited a love for travel and all things mechanical from his father, who raced hydroplanes and restored Hudson automobiles.

A long-time powerboat enthusiast, Charles set up Vulture Ventures, a UK-based offshore racing team, which soon became known as the world’s most successful team in the sport. During this time, Charles took a variety of world records using catamarans and monohulls powered by diesel, petrol and LPG. He was included in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 for an offshore water speed record of 137mph.

The World Land Speed Record holding British Steam Car Challenge team, Rogers Dry Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, Mojave, California, United states of America [ctrl-click photo to launch BBC Video of record breaking run!]. Image Credit: BSCC (2009)

At 8.19am PT, Charles Burnett III successfully broke the land speed record for a steam-powered car achieving an average speed of 139.843mph on two runs over a measured mile.

Charles piloted the car for both runs reaching a peak speed of 136.103mph on the first run and 151.085 mph on the second. The new international record, which is subject to official confirmation by the FIA, breaks the previous official FIA record of 127mph set in 1906 by American, Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley steamer at Daytona Beach.

The British Steam Car - Inspiration - on its first record-breaking run with Charles Burnett III on Rogers Dry Lake bed. The first photo shows the Steam Car at full speed on the first pass as it goes by a U.S. Air Force jet taxiing on an adjacent runway. The middle photo has the car through the middle of the second pass where it reached a speed of over 151mph. The last photo shows the British Steam Car as it completes its challenge to break the World Land Speed Record for the measured mile. [ctrl-click photo to launch BBC Video of record breaking run!] Images Credit: BSCC via BBC Video

As he was congratulated by his jubilant crew, principal driver, Charles Burnett III said: "It was absolutely fantastic. I enjoyed every moment of it. We reached nearly 140mph on the first run before I applied the parachute. All systems worked perfectly, it was a really good run.

The second run went even better and we clocked a speed in excess of 150 mph. The car really did handle beautifully. The team has worked extremely hard over the last 10 years and overcome numerous problems. It is a privilege to be involved with such a talented crew, what we have achieved today is a true testament to British engineering, good teamwork and perseverance.”

A very happy and relieved Charles Burnett III, Primary Driver of the British Steam Car Challenge named Inspiration, after his FIA sanctioned measured mile run that broke a 106 year old World Land Speed Record for a human-driven steam-powered vehicle. Image Credit: BSCC via BBC Video

Project Manager Matt Candy said: "The first run took place at 7.27am when the air temperature was a cool 63 degrees Fahrenheit, the team turned around the car in 52minutes (with just 8 minutes spare) in preparation for its return run. The British Steam Car takes 2.5 miles to accelerate, and after the measured mile, a further 2.5 miles to decelerate – so each run was over 6.5 miles. The FIA requires that the return run takes place within 60 minutes. The times of the two runs are then averaged to obtain the official recorded speed. Compared to the testing we did in Britain, the British Steam Car ran 12 times the distance and twice the maximum speed ­– all within one hour. It’s been a huge challenge for all."

Primary Test Driver, Don Wales - Replacing Don Wales for the actual record attempt will be the project's brainchild and main financier, Charles Burnett III. "It's his project, so he gets to drive it on the day," Mr Wales added. "I just hope to break the world record during the test run - he can then break it after me. If I can help a British team get a world record, then I'm happy." Image Credit: Murry Sanders

Soon after Burnett's successful run, Don Wales, the primary test driver and the person who had logged the most runs in the machine, set the record for a measured kilometer – achieving an average speed of 148.308mph for the required two runs.

Wales climbed into the cockpit of the car for the attempt at the kilometer record and reached a peak speed over 155mph. Again, both new international records are subject to official confirmation by the FIA.

Don Wales said: "What a great feeling, the car felt better than ever today. We peaked over 150mph and the car was handling beautifully. The team has worked so hard over the last 10 years, especially over the last few weeks!”

Project Manager Matt Candy said: "It’s fantastic to set another record for the team and all that hard work has been worth it. After Charles broke the record for the measured mile, we decided to have one more run with the car and attempt the kilometer record.

We took some of the inhibitors from the boilers for this run and it helped get a bit more speed out of the car. The weather was perfect and the air temperature was just 62 degrees Fahrenheit, the team turned around the car in an amazing 30minutes which is their quickest ever! Don has worked so hard with the team, it’s fantastic that he should go home with a record too.”

Three cheers for three records (two official and one unofficial) for the British Steam Car Challenge, and the car they created, Inspiration!

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: 139.843mph, 145.607mph, 148mph, 155mph, Barber-Nichols Team, British Steam Car Challenge, BSCC, FIA, Rebecca Nicholls, Rogers Dry Lake Bed, Southern California, Southern Timing Association, The EDJE

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