After far more than our fair share of last minute hiccups and delays we made it to Pendine Sands in South Wales. Historically this is the home of Land Speed Records in the UK. Using the entire beach with runs up to six mile long the likes of Malcolm Campbell and Parry Thomas reached 174.88 miles per hour. That of course was back in the twenties. We however did not have the full beach and only had a 1 mile course for the Saturday and a 1.5 mile course for the Sunday.
Pete Riley and Ian left home at 8.00am to pick up the trailer from Jason at Hammersleys to collect the car from John Sleath in Doncaster. The car had literally been dumped on John on the Tuesday before, so that the final engine mapping could be perfected for the current engine configuration. Due to the last minute works it was decided not to fit the turbocharger for this event.
Our undying gratitude goes to John for squeezing in the car last minute and as always an excellent job. Throughout the weekend the car ran absolutely faultlessly and if anything we suffered from an excess of power! (More of that later) Once there, the final few parts were fitted and the car loaded for the trip down the road to Wales. We made it to our salubrious accommodation at around 11.30pm.
Day one (Saturday) dawned dry and bright. Being unsure of the local area and knowing that missing the driver briefing is a big no-no we arrived at Pendine at 8.30am. The view was absolutely stunning and watching the tide recede and that most hallowed of beaches gradually reveal itself felt wonderful.
After the driver/rider briefing it was pointed out the there was only 1 car amongst a lot of motorcyclists. However they could have not have been more welcoming and helpful. The camaraderie amongst the competitors was fantastic, everyone out there was simply racing themselves.
Pete and Ian were joined by fellow Jensen owner and Jaguar enthusiast Andy Best. The team worked very well together and over the weekend procedures and checklists were finalised for the very high speed runs in America. Both Pete and Andy excelled themselves with passion and enthusiasm. If the car ran on goodwill we could save on a trip to America and top 200mph there and then.
Once the tide had gone out and we were allowed onto the beach, we made the 1 mile drive down to the start line area. The speed limit on the beach normally is 20 mph and even at this speed the car was moving around an awful lot with the ridges in the sand and the ruts of preceding vehicles. Eventually the start line was reached and last minute checks were carried out before the first runs.
The very first run was made nervously, the confidence to keep the throttle pressed when the car is being moved around by the uneven surface was a skill yet to be acquired.
However throughout the day confidence was built. The surface must have been in very good condition. A number of seasoned veterans of Pendine were improving on records throughout the day. A pair of very experienced sand racers were upping the highest speed ever recorded on the sand with both clocking speeds above 198mph! (Seriously brave men!)
Half way through the afternoon Kevin Nicks turned up in his shed. Last year apparently Kevin had blown his engine attempting to get his shed over 80mph and was back to improve on that target.
Again proving that aerodynamics are best left to other people like the BLOODHOUND guys. He managed to top 100mph! A major achievement for garden equipment.
Unfortunately we decided to hunt a few gremlins and check all the fluid levels, including the gearbox, at probably the time of day when the track was at its best. Our inexperience showing, but an error not to be repeated. As a result of our lack of local knowledge and Ian’s very steep learning curve we only managed 92.562 mph over the 1 mile.
Much ribbing of Ian took place over dinner that evening as Ian couldn’t keep up with a garden shed!
Throughout the weekend we were joined by a number of friends of the project, particularly Brian and Mary as well as a number of reps, customers and fellow Bloodhound ambassadors. All were very keen and excited to see the car actually doing something.
Day two was a much more relaxed affair, we had a lot more experience and high tide was nearly an hour later. On what turned out to be an historic event the weather and tide gods had shone on the event. At the drivers/riders briefing it was announced that the course had been lengthened to 1 and a half miles. There was also a tail wind for the earlier part of the event. The surface was also in peak condition, still frightening but as good as it gets.
The largest issue we had is one most people would be happy to have and that was too much power. On a number of runs Ian lifted off when the car felt unstable but when the power was then reapplied wheelspin just made it feel worse. Apparently the rear wheels lighting up when you floor the car in fifth over 100mph is a bit unnerving! Another skill to master.
The first run Ian was determined to put any talk of speeding sheds to the back of everyone’s mind. Despite a rather wet and lumpy track the first run was 104.834 mph. Job done monkey off his back next target 120!
We were honoured to be present when Land Speed record history was made when Zef Eisenberg on a ‘slightly’ modified Kawasaki ZZR1400 managed 201.572 mph. The fastest speed ever recorded for a wheel driven vehicle at Pendine. Hats off to Zef!
Throughout the day Ian managed to achieve 119.964mph. This was taken to be ‘close enough’ to 120 and so we could start concentrating on modifications and searching for rough track to improve our experience. Amongst these modifications our front splitter was fitted. Primarily to check its strength and suitability. Due to the fact the track felt different every time it would have been difficult to say how much aerodynamic benefit could be felt.
After a low speed test run of 91.034 mph to check the splitter, we then decided to just go round and round until the tide came in. Our hard work was rewarded with many runs around the 115 mph area and one at 120.321 mph.
All boxes ticked, job done, car held together with nothing more serious that an electrical fault and an exhaust system that self dismantled.
A fantastic weekend with both the car and driver tested.
Our thoughts now turn to the big prize. We have a car that works, we have a driver willing enough to push it and a team to keep it together.
We have already started work rectifying some minor issues and preparing the car for the turbocharger, so this is now your opportunity to help.