190mph on Salt Flats with no brakes15 | 08 | 2011

    SPEED SCOTLAND'S 1000cc World Land Speed Record bid hit problems on Sunday when first driver Rick Pearson found himself travelling at 190mph with no airbrakes — that's parachutes to you and me — and then, at 220mph on the next run, the engine suffered a technical failure.

    In his latest update from the Bonneville Salt Flats, Rick explains what went through his head when he realised he couldn't slow down … and the self-preservation which kicks in when there's "a thousand gremlins" trying to destroy the engine.

    Dateline — Sunday, August 14, 2011

    With the Flower through tech late last night, we arrived on the Salt this morning with just the final "pre-flight" checks to run before heading down to the legendary Long Course at Bonneville for our first pass of 2011.

    Having not even sat in the car since SpeedWeek 2010, the discomfort and cramped surroundings of the cockpit of the little Streamliner came as a shock once again. Nothing really compares to the sensation of being strapped in so you can barely breath, with my chin jammed on my chest and struggling to stop the helmet tipping back and obscuring the rev counter from view.

    And as ever with the Flower, the learning curve is steep. The first task was to test the new suspension set-up on the front-end of the car and the steering system — all significantly updated since last year — and to shake down yesterdays engine install.

    Secretly I was hoping to secure my A-licence for a successful pass at between 200 and 250mph, but most importantly I needed to get comfortable again with the acceleration and the Salt conditions. Trying to feed the 400+bhp (which the motor is currently set for) on to the Salt is an entertaining task at times due to the on/off nature of the turbo response.

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    But before I can get too pensive, we're being waived onto the course, the lid is shut and the push-truck shoves me hard between the shoulders. The push-start proves a little slow and the car struggles to pick up and away, but once she does she's running hard. I short-shift into 2nd at 9000 rpm to protect a known weakness in the gearbox and then on to 3rd and then 4th before suddenly the engine dies and we coast eventually to a halt. Both parachutes have failed to deploy at the end of the run and I'm glad we're only doing 190mph and have six miles to stop if needed, rather than 325mph and trying to stop in just two miles ...

    Back at camp, the team quickly trace a blown fuse to the fuel pump and once replaced the Flower is back on Song. The fault with the parachutes is traced and again is a swift fix. But my excitement is a little reduced by what was a "reasonably entertaining" moment trying to stop the car.

    So it's back down to the line for the Long Course, and a two-hour wait in ludicrous temperatures to run again.

    This time, a faster push start and the Flower is away and running, short-shift 2nd but then open her out to 11000 rpm before taking 3rd. Another scream of the turbo and we're through the first mile as I click 4th. She's running fast, and she feels utterly superb as if she would accelerate forever. Then at 9000 rpm in 4th (around 220mph) all hell lets loose behind my head as a thousand gremlins armed with hammers appear to be beating on the firewall behind my head.

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    Instantly I'm in survival mode, covering the clutch for any sign that the rear wheels are going to lock solid if the transmission jams, then throwing out the first 'chute, I check the infra-red tv screen for signs of fire in the engine bay and abandon the track as quickly as possible in case we're losing parts, aided by a perfect 'chute deployment to scrub off speed.

    This time back at base the news isn't so good. Our super reinforced 4th gear has been stripped, despite the fact that the Flower is turned down some 100bhp from max power. Clearly there has been a failure in the heat-treating process at the suppliers, an error out of our control, made many months and many miles away from Bonneville.

    So once again the engine is ripped out of the Flower and as curfew and a fierce electrical storm arrive on the Salt she's sat without a power unit waiting for the No2 engine to be installed first thing tomorrow.

    For me, as driver, an enormous adrenalin crash but this is moderated by the utter exhilaration as she blasted through 200mph feeling so strong and tracking so true. 300mph feels a VERY long way away right now, especially as this pass doesn't count for my A license so we've still two runs to do before we can truly open her up at that record.

    As they say, tomorrow is another day. Let's hope it dawns with dry, fast, Salt and Bonneville finally cuts us some luck.

    I'm hoping by now that we've paid our dues!

    Rick Pearson

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