Matters of moment, November 1981
The news as we close for press is that Richard Noble has failed by 210 m.p.h. in round figures, to break what is popularly known as the Land Speed Record (officially the World’s flying-start kilometre or mile record) with the 30,000 h.p. Thrust 2, a car which already holds the British LSR at over 251 m.p.h. for the km, established last year at Greenham Common runway. It seems that further runs at Utah were impossible because the rains had set in.
Noble is not the only driver to be frustrated by the conditions of the Utah salt flats. The weather broke in November 1937, after George Eyston had raised the mile record to over 311 m.p.h. with Thunderbolt and this happened again in September 1947 when John Cobb did more than 394 m.p.h. for the two-way mile but was prevented from trying for an official 400 m.p.h., which he had exceeded by over three m.p.h. in one direction, because the course became waterlogged. Incidentally, early reports had it that Noble had broken the record set at 403 m.p.h. at Lake Eyre by Donald Campbell in 1964 in Bluebird. This is incorrect, because Bluebird is in the wheel-driven category, whereas Thrust 2 does not have the power of its Rolls-Royce Avon jet engine transmitted through its road (or salt?) wheels. In any case, the LSR for wheel-driven cars belongs to Summers and Goldenrod, which did 409.277 at Bonneville in 1965— while we deplore any control of technical development in F1 racing or record breaking (apart from engine capacity divisions for the latter), it does seem unrealistic that rocket or jet propulsion erttirely divorced from the wheels that carry the car (or projectile) have been permitted since 1964 for LSR attempts when this form of propulsion has not been developed for ordinary cars, although we concede that the same can be said of skirts and aerofoils and slicks in racing.
What Noble has to beat is the two-way run (the second run having to be done within one hour of the first one) of 630.388 m.p.h. for the kilometre made by Garry Gabelich in The Blue Flame at Bonneville, Utah in 1970.
It may not be much consolation to Richard Noble but there have been many other frustrated attempts on the fastest of all motor-car records. Apart from those who wrecked their cars, there is the classic case of Kaye Don and the Sunbeam Silver Bullet (see Motor Sport, April 1976), in contrast to which Segrave got first to the over 200 m.p.h. barrier comparatively easily in the twin-engined Sunbeam at Daytona in 1927 and the same driver made a model attack on the LSR with the scarcely fully-extended Napier-powered Golden Arrow at Daytona in 1929, as described in Motor Sport last July. Incidentally, it is interesting that in those days it was estimated that the “1,000 h.p.” Sunbeam cost less than £5,500 and the Golden Arrow just over £10,000. However, Donald Campbell’s turbine Proteus-Bluebird swallowed some £900,000, in enabling him, after endless delays, to follow in the wheeltracks of his famous father, Sir Malcolm, who raised the LSR no fewer than nine times between 1925 and 1935, improving his mean speeds from 146 m.p.h. to 301 m.p.h., ignoring the decimals. So Noble’s LSR bid, costing overall some £870,000, and backed by GKN, Initial Services and Loctite amongst others, cannot be termed expensive.
It is now up to him and his team to return as soon as conditions allow. and justify the effort and finance bound up in this British venture.
It is typical of the variety to be enjoyed in motoring sport that this month two events will take place, before enormous assemblies of spectators, which could hardly be more different in concept. On Sunday November 1st, the annual RAC / VCC London-Brighton Veteran Car Run takes place, sponsored as before by Renault UK Ltd. The aim is to drive pre-1905 cars from Hyde Park, starting at about 8 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. depending on the age of your car, and get it to the Pylons just outside Brighton not later than 4 p.m. (to gain a medal), continuing to the official finishing place to park on Brighton’s Madeira Drive. As we said last month, this is a wonderful cavalcade of historic transport heirlooms, well worth watching. But it is best to do this either at the start or from somewhere along the route, to avoid congestion on the approaches to Brighton, unless of course, you spectate at the finish, where a commentator describes the arrivals. We hope next month to tell you how the Editor fared with a 1903 4 1/2-litre Daimler (No. 160) from the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.
The other important November event is the Lombard-sponsored RAC Rally of Great Britain, starting in Chester on November 21st and contested by modern saloon cars which, in effect, race over closed forestry roads, but have to comply with public-road requirements and be reliable enough recover long distances at legal speeds round Britain between the timed stages. Enormous crowds turn out to watch both these events and as iris to the veteran cars of room on their slow from the Metropolis to London-by-the-Sea, to it is absolutely vital that spectators obey the instructions of the marshals during the RAG: Rally. and keep well off the speed stages. especially at night, because one serious accident involving an onlooker could have very unfortunate repercussions.
So turn out, enjoy both these great spectacles. but use the utmost common-sense to see that the participants go unimpeded.