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British Steam Car Challenge

British Steam Car Challenge 28 October 2006

The British Steam Car Challenge - which will attempt to set British and World Land Speed Records in excess of 200mph - received a considerable boost recently when Slough Heat & Power in Berkshire provided some steam from a purpose-built gantry to assist the team in their initial trials. After various tests, the car's turbine layout was redesigned and is now successfully generating in excess of 300bhp - the output needed to achieve the records. Having proved, mathematically, that 200mph is possible, the team is now completing the high-tech boilers for the car, named Inspiration. The boilers will generate a formidable four megawatts of energy - almost enough to power a small town for a day.

The British Steam Car Challenge aims to set the first record at Verneuk Pan, a lake bed in South Africa's Northern Cape, in June 2007, before decamping to Bonneville Salt Flats USA, in August.

Slough Heat & Power (SHP) is probably the oldest independent power generator in the UK, having been operating on the site on the Slough Trading Estate since the 1920s. Dr Andrew Ellis, Deputy Managing Director of SHP, said: "We have a tradition of innovation and environmental advancements, not always in keeping with the mainstream industry. We are both a combined heat and power and a renewable generator with over 85 per cent of our output from biofuels. SHP is one of the leading renewable generators in the UK and uses cutting edge technology to the benefit of the environment - which, in broad terms, is a similar philosophy to the British Steam Car Challenge."

SHP joins forty-five companies, large and small, who are supporting the British Steam Car Challenge - providing products, services and expertise from gas (Calor and Prins) and logistical support (Sandstone Heritage Trust and Speedrecord SA) to design and analysis software (Solidworks).

The British Steam Car Challenge was started when Lord Montagu of Beaulieu saw a project undertaken by students at Southampton University. His nephew, Charles Burnett III, was inspired by the proposed steam powered record car and assembled the British Steam Car Challenge team. The car was designed by Dr Glynne Bowsher, who was mechanical director on the British Thrust SSC project - the current holder of the outright land speed record (763.035mph). Frank Swanston, a consulting engineer well known in motor racing circles, is leading the drive to complete the project.

The official world record for a steam powered car was set back in 1906 at 127.659mph by Fred Marriot driving a Stanley Steamer. In 1985, Bob Barber reached 145.607mph in a steam car but only made one run - to qualify as a world record the average speed of two runs in opposite directions is taken.

Swanston said: "There is no official British record, so whatever speed we achieve during tests at Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire early next year will stand. Next, we want to set a world land speed record of 200mph in South Africa, then follow that in August by breaking Barber's American national record during Bonneville Speed Week, at 150mph."

There will be two drivers. One is One is Charles Burnett III, who has raced dragsters and powerboats. The other is Annette Getty, general manager of high-tech engineering company, PDS - which manufactured the tubular steel chassis for Inspiration. She has been preparing for the record attempts by driving a high-powered rally car.


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