It was nice to read January’s article recalling Stan Barrett and his courageous rides in the Budweiser rocket-powered tricycle 40 years ago. The real tragedy was that his skill and bravery were undermined by the chicanery of the Project SOS (Speed of Sound) organisation. Realising that the world land speed record (whether FIM or FIA) was beyond the vehicle’s capability, Project SOS kept redefining their goals until settling on a dash to exceed Mach 1 on land. The irony was that Mach 1 is an airspeed, not a land speed, and that its true value at the precise time and location of the rocket’s attempt was not certain.
With that issue at the forefront, a claim of Mach 1.01 was absurd, even after all the data manipulation to produce the 1/10th-second duration published speed. There was never any documentation as to where, how, when, or with what accuracy the air temperature used in the Mach 1 calculation was measured – equally as important as the uncalibrated and uncertified radar data (per the USAF). Barrett risked his life and fortunately survived.
By the way, The Blue Flame’s absolute world land speed record was 630.388mph in the kilometre, the first record over 1000kph, and not broken until 1997 by Andy Green. That 622.407mph was the mile speed record set simultaneously.
Richard Keller, by email