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British Steam Car Latest News May ‘09

Following the successful test of the British Steam Car on Wednesday 1 April 2009 at Thorney Island, Portsmouth - the UK test program is now complete. With its departure to America scheduled later this month now is the time to explain more about the record attempt.

The primary aim of British Steam Car project is to establish an FIA sanctioned Land Speed Record and break the 103-year-old FIA record of 127mph achieved by American, Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley steam car in 1906. The FIA is the sanctioning body and now recognizes a 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. While the mile in which the attempt is being made cannot move during the attempt, there is no limit to the runup or braking distance for the vehicle as well or location that the event must take place.

The team acknowledges the achievements of the "Barber-Nichols Team". Their vehicle 'Steamin' Demon' is currently the fastest steam car in the world. In 1985 The Barber-Nichols Team carried out three successful passes and achieved an American National Record at 145.607mph. There was no attempt to establish an FIA record. However, the British Steam Car Challenge recognizes this speed as the record to exceed.

From its inception, the British Steam Car was designed to achieve an FIA record. This is reflected in many of the design decisions and also greatly affects our choice of venue.

The British Steam Car has fixed gearing between the turbine and the wheels. When the car starts it is in top gear and only manages to pull away because of the incredible torque available from a stem turbine. Weighing 3 tons and starting in top gear means that the car accelerates very slowly toward its top speed. The team need a minimum of 6 miles to make the record attempt, 2.5 miles to accelerate, measure 1mile then decelerate for 2.5 miles, to allow room to accelerate on the return run so, for the record attempt, we required six miles of smooth, flat ( less than 1% gradient) which immediately preclude a record attempt in the UK.

Matt Candy says: "There are no runways or man-made flat surfaces six miles long - it has to be a natural feature. Beaches, lake beds or salt flats are often chosen for speed record attempts, including the well -known Bonneville Salt Flats. "We have chosen Rogers Dry Lake Bed in southern California as our venue for the record attempt, as it is a suitable surface with sufficient length. It is paved with silt and clay and has a surface so perfect that simply painting an outline on it creates runways! Rogers Dry Lake Bed is within the huge 308,000-acre Edward's Airforce Base site and is where the Space Shuttle lands if conditions in Florida are unsuitable. It is steeped in aviation history, and there has never been an official FIA land speed record achieved on site.

"It has another advantage for us - low altitude. Being only 2300 feet above sea level, the air at Rogers Dry Lake Bed is denser than at higher altitudes providing more oxygen for the car's burners"

Successful UK Testing

It is a sobering thought for the team, as the car now has to go twelve times as far, at double the speed, twice, in one hour to achieve the record. The team has much to learn, test and achieve on the Lakebed at Edwards.

Packing - The car and all the ancillary equipment have since been cleaned prepared and packed. The car, 6 support rigs, eight pallets of plastic boxes containing all the spares and essentials, including teabags, has found a home inside our two 40ft containers and the 20ft workshop container. The car, on its trolley and trailer is a tight fit, but it has gone into the container.

Videos - The car has attracted interest from all over the world and can be seen on a number of videos on the Internet including:


Next Step - The team hopes to have confirmation that Rogers Dry Lake will be available before the end of the month, so that shipping can be arranged.
The record attempt is likely to take place in July 2009.

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