SOME EXPERIENCES WITH THE WORLD'S FASTEST CAR.
1 SOME EXPERIENCES WITH THE WORLD’S FASTEST CAR.
By CAPTAIN MALCOLM CAMPBELL.
FVER since the big twelve-cylindered Sunbeam
came into my possession, my friends have been greatly interested to know the reasons prompting me to attempt the high speeds of which the car is capable.
The answer is simple and may be expressed in one word—Ambition. Motoring makes different appeals to different people, some finding their desires for achievement satisfied by long distance records ; others in gaining successes over difficult trial routes ; whilst reliability trials, short hill climbs and other forms of the great pastime appeal to the sporting instincts of different classes of motorists.
No one will deny that the joys of sheer speed possess an extraordinary fascination, but, before taking the wheel of the Sunbeam, I had no idea of the wonderful sensation of driving at a really high velocity. The outstanding recollection of my first fast trip on this car was the time occupied in slowing down and even when the brakes were applied, it seemed at the moment as if it would never stop again. On becoming accustomed to the higher speeds and the manipulation of the car, this feeling, of course, disappeared, though at the time it was a most remarkable experience.
One has only to sit behind the big engine and let the car go on a stretch of good sand to feel as if some supernatural force were at work ; a force which, though controlled by the hand of man, is so terrific as to inspire awe.
I have often thought that if a Rudyard Kipling, or someone equally skilled in expressing their feelings; could be persuaded to take a trip at 150 miles an hour on such a car as the Sunbeam, the description of the trip would go down to history as a poetical masterpiece. But, there it is ! I cannot attempt to describe the fascination of sheer speed and will content myself by stating that every run I take on the big car makes me feel ten years younger. Perhaps that may be a personal justification of my hobby, though naturally there are many useful things to be learned as the result of abnormally high speeds.
From my own point of view, any attack on the world’s record is not a business proposition, there is little to be gained and a good deal to be risked financially, as it is practically impossible to insure one’s car except at an exorbitant premium. But, as I was going to say, the greatest fun is obtained during practice spins, for then one is free from all the
cares and anxieties’of an official record attempt, the worry as to the condition of the surface, the state of the weather and the exacting attention necessary to all minor details of organisation.
There is just the subtle difference between a public and a private performance, so well known to all motorists who take part in any kind of competition event. As a crowd, waiting for the driver who fogs his gear when rounding a steep corner, exercise a baneful influence on many competition drivers, so does the presence of spectators, pressmen and others interested in the record, tend to mar the enjoyment of a really fast run. the I3rookl ands Track. Speaking of the track, I do not consider the Sunbeam at all suitable for the conditions of that course, which is the only reason for running it at Pendine, Fanrie, Skegness and elsewhere. For speeds in the neighbourhood of 150 miles per hour, all the conditions must be absolutely right, for the normal risks when travelling all out are sufficient, without incurring needless dangers. At such a speed a side gale blowing at between forty and fifty miles an hour is not a pleasant experience, whilst the fact that one’s vision is partly obscured by flying sand is not one to be neglected. But, when everything is right, the maximum speed of
In other words, one becomes the servant rather than the master of one’s hobby, but for all that I am devotedly attached to the car that has given me so much real enjoyment.
Perfect Conditions Essential for Speed.
Other people who have handled the big Sunbeam have been equally impressed by its charms. Hawker, Homstead, Rene Thomas, ” Sammy ” Davis and Kenelm Guinness, being the only other men who have driven it to any extent. The last-named having put up the best performances with this car ever witnessed on
the Sunbeam surpasses the thrills of flying and everything .else for sheer exhilaration.
The Value of a Second.
One very remarkable point in connection with record attempts is the value of the unit of time. In a mile run three little seconds make all the difference between 150 m.p.h. and 180 m.p.h. Just have another look at your stop watch, count off three seconds and think what it means where a world’s record is concerned. To beat the watch by those three ticks, one must be prepared to spend considerable sums of money, months
of persistent effort and the technical resources of many sections of the automobile industry have to be requisitioned.
Perhaps, when read in black and white, it may seem rather futile to take so much trouble to cut down the time for a short run by so limited an amount as three seconds, but the wealth of technical information obtainable by such efforts cannot be over-estimated.
One learns the real meaning of wind resistance, becomes familiar with the peculiar influence of gyroscopic action, whilst the effects of perfect balance and harmony in all parts of the machine are demonstrated in a remarkable way.
Take the case of tyres as a single example. It is common knowledge that the straight edge cover, so popular to-day, is the direct outcome of high speed experience, as is the new well-based rim. Furthermore, it is interesting to mention that tyre manufacturers are now concentrating upon the development of a special form of tyre testing apparatus, which will exactly reproduce the conditions obtaining when a car is travelling at 18o miles per hour. A few years ago such a project would have been described as absurd in the extreme and, if the big Sunbeam has done something to provide the ordinary motorist with better tyres, it may be said to have justified its existence. Then again, for high-speed work, the entire absence of engine and chassis vibration is an absolute essential and, in this respect, one of the virtues of a record breaking machine is a primary quality for the touring car de-Luxe. One may well ask, however, if any of the peculiarities of construction of the monster Sunbeam are to be found in cars of normal design ? It is quite impossible
to say how far high-speed influences extend into ordinary car practice, but it is safe to say that in the .hands of its original owners, the Sunbeam Motor Company, an enormous amount of practical data was obtained.
So long as this and other super-speed cars are run, so long will their influence extend to standard models. Every single performance is closely watched by car designers the world over and though little may be said about it at the time, one may take it for granted that the different factors making for speed and regularity gradually find their way into the composition of ordinary cars and especially those of the type selected by the sporting motorist.