Is 200 mph safe?

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A contemporary motoring weekly has done an experiment to see if driving at 200mph on a public road is safe. It involved taking a Lamborghini Diablo to an unrestricted German autobahn, waiting three days for good weather, then timing it to cover a kilometre at 201.4mph, driven by an ex-Police instructor. The testers made the point that such speed is safe, provided a car is specially-designed and built for it, you are an experienced and skilful driver, have precisely the right road, weather and traffic conditions, and are not breaking the law.

Beforehand, the project was described as possessing “awesome possibilities”, although the aim was to do 200mph safely — had it not been so, rather a deathwish! But it proved to be safely possible. So you can buy a Diablo, EB110 Bugatti, or new McLaren road-car with a clear conscience, if you conform to the stated requirements. Another was that the car should be minutely examined before taking a 200-mph flip. But surely those spending £150,000 to £320,000, or whatever today’s super-cars cost, might expect to drive them at maximum speed without first stopping for a service-check? The driver of the Diablo did once say that all cars should be carefully inspected before every M-way journey! But nearly 3 1/2-miles-a-minute is unlikely to be held for long distances or even indulged In very often. Indeed, some drivers may try it only once (no pun intended).

The Lamborghini did its stuff on a slightly curving. two-lane M-way, after its driver saw only a Golf in the inner-lane which he sensed was safe, after a lamps’ flash (how does one know? — but this is a normal overtaking hazard and the Segrave theory was that the faster you are going, the sooner the danger is over). The interesting account of the experiment occupied seven pages and was backed up by an editorial which concluded that speed is relative, there being times when 200mph is safe, 20mph dangerous. Which Motor Sport readers have known for years.

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