Scots' World Land Speed Record bid 12 | 08 | 2011

    SPEED SCOTLAND, the Lesmahagow-based team which works out of a ramshackle garage just yards from the roaring traffic heading south on the M74 towards England, will this weekend begin its attempt to become 1000cc World Land Speed Recordholders.

    Twelve months after getting close to the current benchmark of 313mph, before an engine problem halted their progress having cruised past 270mph, the seven-man team is back on the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

    And team boss Derek Palmer, who is overseeing the preparations of its 21in-wide, methanol-powered Streamliner car — Christened Flower of Scotland — is quietly confident the landmark figure which has stood for 12 years will be broken.

    "Last year was definitely a very positive learning experience for everyone involved with the team," Palmer, who has already tasted European Touring Car Championship success with his ProMotorsport team, admitted from his temporary base in Wendover, Utah, today.

    "We'd built the speed up gradually throughout the week last year and on what was planned to be our penultimate run, when we planned to do 280-290mph, the car suffered a chain-drive failure at 270mph.

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    "We knew we had time for one last run 24 hours later, but unfortunately we weren't able to get the car repaired in time, despite having team members flying to Los Angeles and South Dakota to pick up new pieces.

    "This year though the car is better-prepared, and the team is better equipped. Allied to the experience from last year, I firmly believe we'll do it this year."

    Over the winter Palmer, who sees the world record bid more as an "engineering challenge than an out-and-out speed exercise", has worked on the Streamliner as it sat squeezed between the sports saloon cars he successfully prepares for various championships.

    The car, which will travel just two-inches above the sun-baked salt crust of the lake, is powered by a 997cc, 300bhp Kawasaki motor bike engine running 20psi of boost; but rather than being petrol-powered, the Speed Scotland powerplant drinks methanol on each three-minute run on the 10-mile straight.

    Improvements to the Streamliner's steering and aerodynamics have also been made, changes which Palmer believes should make life a little easier, if not more comfortable, for driver Rick Pearson. The touring car racer is actually two inches taller than the claustrophobic-inducing cockpit was created for.

    "Rick had a few steering and vibration issues last year, which isn't really what you want when you're screaming across the salt flats which, though it looks smooth to the eye is actually rather sticky and bumpy," Palmer smiled.

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    And the effervescent Scot admitted both the team, and Pearson, were currently going through the pre-event nerve phase.

    "Yeh, for sure we're all feeling it a bit," Palmer continued. "This isn't a walk in the park. We're all aware we're stepping into a world where people haven't ventured.

    "The Flower of Scotland is only 21-inches wide, and Rick is squeezed tight into the cockpit; his shoulders are touching the inside of the outer skin of the car, there's literally nothing else between him and the outside world.

    "This is high speed motorsport stripped back to the limit. There's nowhere near the protection current Formula One drivers enjoy. Believe me, it's a brave man who drives a Streamliner at 315mph."

    Tomorrow Palmer will oversee the car as it goes through the stringent pre-event scrutineering before Pearson and the crew give the car its first shakedown run on Sunday.

    Twenty-four hours later, Speed Scotland will bid to go faster than the legendary Sir Malcolm Campbell who managed 301.129mph in Blue Bird on the salt flats in 1935.

    "We're here to do the business for Scottish motorsport and engineering," Palmer said, "and we're determined to make sure we bring the world record home to Scotland."

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    Jim McGill


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