Land speed racing is a form of motorsport.
A record is defined as the speed over a course of fixed length, averaged over two runs (commonly called "passes"). Under current FIA rules, two runs are required in opposite directions within one hour, over a timed mile and a new record mark must exceed the previous one by at least one percent to be validated. Records are set in either the flying kilometre or flying mile. Motorcycle land speed racing requires 2 passes the same calendar day in opposite directions over a timed mile/kilo for AMA National Land Speed Records while FIM Land Speed World Records require two passes in opposite directions to be over a timed mile/kilo completed within 2 hours.
The sport's origins date to the 1930s with the Mormon Meteor at Bonneville Speedway in Utah and in California, when the Southern California Timing Association first held meets for a variety of hot rodded vehicles.
Ever since, any vehicle – car, truck, or motorcycle – able to meet the class requirements and safety regulations has been able to make an attempt to break the existing record. For automobiles running under FIA sanctioning, the record is set by averaging two runs (commonly called "passes"), one in either direction, within the space of two hours. All vehicles are separated by classes based on displacement. Vintage engines, like the Ford Flathead, Buick Straight Eight, Stovebolt engine and others are raced in the vintage classes. These consist of:
In 1906, Dorothy Levitt broke the women's world speed record for the flying kilometer, recording a speed of 91 mph (146.25 km/h) and receiving the sobriquet the "Fastest Girl on Earth". She drove a six-cylinder Napier motorcar, a 100 hp (74.6 kW) development of the K5, in a speed trial in Blackpool.
In 1929, Frenchwoman Hellé Nice broke the female speed record. She reached 122.84 mph (197.7 km/h) in a Bugatti 35B on a 10 km course on the Montlhery track outside Paris. The feat was so great that the newspapers at the time named her "Queen of Speed".
A subsequent record was set by Lee Breedlove, the wife of Craig Breedlove, who piloted her husband's Spirit of America - Sonic 1 to a record of 308.506 mph (496.492 km/h) in 1965. According to author Rachel Kushner, Craig Breedlove had talked Lee into taking the car out for a record attempt in order to monopolize the salt flats for the day and block one of his competitors from making a record attempt.
For 43 years, the world record was held by Kitty O'Neil with a speed of 512.710 mph (825.127 km/h), in the jet-powered SMI Motivator, set at the Alvord Desert in 1976. O'Neil reached 512.710 mph (825.127 km/h).
On August 20, 2019, 43 years later, American professional racer, television personality, and metal fabricator Jessi Combs attempted to break Kitty's long-standing world record at the age of 39 and at the same location. Combs died after her car suffered a mechanical failure on her second run from the opposite direction (used to establish an average to account for wind); the mechanical failure (located on the front wheel assembly) was speculated to have been caused by hitting an object in the desert. Despite dying during the execution of the run, her record attempt was eventually validated, and her new time was posthumously ratified by Guinness on 25 June 2020, ten months after the fatal attempt. Her time was recorded as 522.783 mph (841.338 km/h), which is more than 10 mph faster than Kitty O'Neils historic record.
There is no "wheel-driven" category as such. The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile validates records in a variety of classes, of which the "wheel-driven" classes are in Category A (Special cars) and Category B (Production cars). The accepted record is fastest average speed recorded over any one-mile or one-kilometer distance, averaged over two runs in opposite directions (to factor out wind) within one hour of each other. The most recent wheel-driven record holders have been from a variety of different classes within Category A.
In 2008 Tom Burkland broke the piston-engined wheel-driven record for the flying mile, recording a speed of 415.896 mph (669.320 km/h). He drove the Burkland family streamliner powered by two 450+ cubic inch-displacement supercharged Donovan engines (bought second-hand), with crankshafts bolted together nose-to-nose, running on methanol.
In September, 2010 George Poteet made an attempt to break the piston-engined wheel-driven record for the flying mile and flying kilometer. His car, Speed Demon, built by Ron Main, is powered by a 299 cu in (4,900 cc) aluminum block 'Hellfire' V8, built by Kenny Duttweiler. Their effort was thwarted by a number of parts failures. The team stated their intention to return in 2011 to set a record over 450 mph (724 km/h), and at the 2011 Bonneville Speed Week, Poteet achieved 426 mph (686 km/h)
In 2012, the Target 550 team of Marlo Treit and Les Davenport planned to raise the record for this class to more than 500 mph (800 km/h) in Viking 31, built by Jim Hume. Powered by two Dodge hemis with Whipple supercharger, it has a frontal area of 8.61 sq ft (0.800 m2) and is more than 40 ft (12 m) long. The model was tested in the Western Washington University wind tunnel, with assistance from Dr. Michael Seal.
In 2018 the Flashpoint Streamliner exceeded the record but was disqualified after being destroyed on its second lap, as two full successful laps are required to set a record. The car reached 436 and 451 mph on each lap, but was destroyed on the second lap as a result of a tire failure.
|November 12, 1965||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||Bob Summers||Goldenrod||4 x fuel injected Chrysler 426 hemi V8s||409.277||658.526||Naturally aspirated piston-engine record Group II, Class 11: 2 or 4 stroke engine without supercharger, cylinder capacity > 8000 cm3|
|August 21, 1991||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||Elwin "Al" Teague||Spirit of '76 (Torque Speed-o-Motive[clarification needed] streamliner)||14-71-supercharged Chrysler hemi V8||425.050||684.052||409.978||659.796||Piston-engined record Group I, Class 11: 2 or 4 stroke engine with supercharger, cylinder capacity > 8000 cm3 until 2008|
|October 18, 2001||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||Don Vesco||Vesco Turbinator||Lycoming T55-L-11A SA||458.196||737.395||458.444||737.794|| Group IX, Class 3: gas turbine engine, unloaded weight > 1000 kg|
|September 26, 2008||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||Tom Burkland||Burkland 411 Streamliner||2 x 8-71-supercharged Donovan hemi V8 Engines||415.896||669.319||Piston-engined record Group I, Class 11: 2 or 4 stroke engine with supercharger, cylinder capacity > 8000 cm3|
|August 25, 2009||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||Roger Schroer||Venturi Buckeye Bullet||Electric motor by Venturi Automobiles||303.025||487.672||302.877||487.433||1st electric vehicle to go over 300 mph|
|August 24, 2010||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||Roger Schroer||Venturi Buckeye Bullet||Electric motor by Venturi Automobiles||307.905||495.526||307.666||495.140|||
|September 21, 2010||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||Charles E. Nearburg||Spirit of Rett streamliner||Reher-Morrison Nitrous oxide-injected carbureted DRCE 2 V8 Engine||414.477||667.037||414.316||666.776||Non-supercharged piston-engine record Group II, Class 11:|
|September 17, 2012||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||George Poteet||Speed Demon streamliner||Twin-turbocharged Dart small-block V8||439.562||707.408||439.024||706.540||Group I, Class 10|
|August 11, 2018||Bonneville Salt Flats, USA||Danny Thompson||Challenger II||2 x nitromethane-fuelled fuel injected BAE hemi V8s||448.757||722.204||Normally-aspirated piston-engined record with automotive engines|