Tuesday, August 25, 2009

British Steam Car Challenge "Vaporizes" World Land Speed Record - 139.843mph

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 (USA time) - ctrl-click to launch in car video of a test run on Rogers Dry Lake Bed - Image & Video Credit: Don Wales – Test Driver, BSCC

British Steam Car Challenge "Vaporizes" World Land Speed Record - 139.843mph

The British Steam Car Challenge is a mission formed to make something solid out of controlling, well ... vapor. The mission is to capture a world land speed record that has stood the test of time for well over one-hundred years (106 to be more definitive) ... a world land speed record set with boiling water, a world land speed record set with using directed steam to power a vehicle.

The project actually started when Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, Great Britian was impressed by a project created by students at Southampton University. To date, the British Steam Car Challenge Team has now successfully carried out 5 full test runs in excess of 100mph ahead of today's bid to break the century-old world land speed record for steam-powered vehicles.

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

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 FIA is the sanctioning body and now 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 principle 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 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. Image Credit: BSCC


Wednesday 19th August

The team made the first official attempt at the world record today, but decided to abort the second run after a slight problem with the throttle was detected. It is understood that the throttle was letting water through the turbine rather than bypassing it. The team will investigate the problem this afternoon with the intention of attempting the record again tomorrow morning.

Thursday 20th August
We had a successful first run today, peak speed 130mph, but unfortunatly on the return pass the rear right hand side tyre suffered a slow punture at 75mph - 4.2 miles in to the course. Back to the lakebed again tomorrow. I have to say these guys on the team are working their butts off to make this happen. Its not until you are here that you can appreciate the conditions. Six days a week, 14 hours a day in over 100 degrees.

Friday 21st August
We arrived on the lakebed full of anticipation and optimism. The air was still, it was a beautiful sunrise and we were all on schedule.

The first run peaked at 133.491 but picked up speed when exiting the measured mile. The measured mile was 128.628. The turnaround crew was on target at approximately 40 minutes in preparation for its return run.

Whilst the car was being refilled there was pressure problem with the water rigs. The second run was aborted and we all returned to base.

The temperature soared to over 104f, and over 40% humidity. Having tracked down the route of the problem to a minor electrical fault, the team continued to work and source spares to rectify it.
Clouds began to roll in, a storm kicked up with over over 45-50 mph gusts, we had had to rescue the marquee as things began to fly away.

It became impractical and dangerous to work, the team battened down the hatches and called it a day. The weather forecast has predicted bad storms and lightening. It is really howling out there!

The team will continue to work on the car tomorrow (Saturday) and carry out a static test for more runs on Monday, when I will bring you more news.

Saturday 22nd August
The weather was stormy, and noticeably cooler. The team worked in earnest to rectify the electrical fault, but the part arrived two hours late. They carried out a static test, which was the best they have ever had running at 380degrees, demonstrating that the car now has more power. Typically on a 130mph run it is operating between 300-320, so this was good news.

However the static test detected a fault with the water bladder, which had been damaged by the flow of pressure being pushed through the flowmisers. There was little more that the team could do, time was ticking on, so it was decided that they would carry out the bladder repair (which typically take 2-3hours) on Monday. They would utilise this time to carry out maintenance, such as flushing through the flowmisers and mechanically setting them, and clearing the car of any contaminated water.

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 to launch BBC Video of record breaking run!]. Image Credit: BSCC (2009)

Edward’s Air Force Base, California: Tuesday August 25th
Today at 8.19am (California time) Charles Burnett III successfully broke the land speed record for a steam-powered car – which has stood for more than 100 years – achieving an average speed of 139.843mph on two runs over a measured mile.

Driver Charles Burnett III 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.

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”

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.

Pam Swanston wife of the late project manager Frank Swanston was overcome with emotion after seeing Charles power the supercar across the dry lake bed, she said: "If only Frank was here today, it was his vision that made it a reality. He would be incredibly proud of the team's achievements and always believed we would succeed. Today we celebrate this record for Frank"

Three cheers to the perseverance and planning of the British Steam Car Challenge team in it's effort to successfully set a new recognized world speed mark that had stood for one-hundred and six years, here on this spinning Oblate Spheroid.

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