Land speed racing


Land speed racing is a form of motorsport.

Land speed racing is best known for the efforts to break the absolute land speed record, but it is not limited to specialist vehicles.[1]

A record is defined as the speed over a course of fixed length, averaged over two runs (commonly called "passes").[2] 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.[3] Records are set in either the flying kilometre or flying mile.[4] 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.[5]


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.[6] 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.[citation needed] These consist of:

  • XF: Ford Flathead
  • XO: Overhead valve engines and non Ford flatheads built up to 1959.
  • XXF: Ford flatheads with overhead valve head conversions.
  • XXO: Overhead valve engines with specialist cylinder heads.
  • V4: Vintage four cylinder engines made before 1935. Overhead valve/Overhead cam conversions permitted.
  • V4F: Vintage flathead four cylinder engines built before 1935, valvetrain must remain a valve in block.

Women's record

Dorothy Levitt, in a 26hp Napier, at Brooklands, England, in 1908

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.[7][8][9]

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".[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13] O'Neil reached 512.710 mph (825.127 km/h).[14][15]

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.[citation needed]

Records by class

Motorcycle record

1960–present wheel driven cars

There is no "wheel-driven" category as such.[16] 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.[17]

Burkland's 411 Streamliner, driven by Tom Burkland on the Bonneville Salt Flats, holds the current piston-engined wheel-driven land speed record

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.[18][19]

Poteet & Main Speed Demon, driven by George Poteet on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2010

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.[20] 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)[21]

Treit & Davenport's Viking 31

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.[22]

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.[23]

Date Location Driver Vehicle Power Speed over
1 km
Speed over
1 mile
mph km/h mph km/h
November 12, 1965 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States Bob Summers Goldenrod 4 x fuel injected Chrysler 426 hemi V8s[citation needed] 409.277 658.526 Naturally aspirated piston-engine record[17] Group II, Class 11:[24] 2 or 4 stroke engine without supercharger, cylinder capacity > 8000 cm3[25]
August 21, 1991 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States Elwin "Al" Teague Spirit of '76 (Torque Speed-o-Motive[clarification needed] streamliner) 14-71[citation needed]-supercharged Chrysler hemi V8 425.050 684.052 409.978 659.796 Piston-engined record[17] Group I, Class 11:[24] 2 or 4 stroke engine with supercharger, cylinder capacity > 8000 cm3 until 2008[25]
October 18, 2001 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States Don Vesco Vesco Turbinator Lycoming T55-L-11A SA 458.196 737.395 458.444 737.794 [17] Group IX, Class 3:[24] gas turbine engine, unloaded weight > 1000 kg[25]
September 26, 2008 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States Tom Burkland Burkland 411 Streamliner 2 x 8-71[citation needed]-supercharged Donovan hemi V8 Engines 415.896 669.319 Piston-engined record[17] Group I, Class 11:[24] 2 or 4 stroke engine with supercharger, cylinder capacity > 8000 cm3[25]
August 25, 2009 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States 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[26]
August 24, 2010 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States Roger Schroer Venturi Buckeye Bullet Electric motor by Venturi Automobiles 307.905 495.526 307.666 495.140 [26]
September 21, 2010 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States Charles E. Nearburg Spirit of Rett streamliner Reher-Morrison Nitrous oxide-injected carbureted DRCE 2[citation needed] V8 Engine 414.477 667.037 414.316 666.776 Non-supercharged piston-engine record[17] Group II, Class 11:[24]
September 17, 2012 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States George Poteet Speed Demon streamliner Twin-turbocharged Dart small-block V8[27] 439.562 707.408 439.024 706.540 Group I, Class 10[28]
August 11, 2018 Bonneville Salt Flats, USA United States 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

See also


  1. ^ Land Speed Racing newsletter (retrieved 2 December 2018).
  2. ^ Regulations for Record Attempts - CHAPTER 2 Archived November 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine - FIA
  3. ^ "§105. Conditions for the recognition of international or world records". Sporting Code: Chapter 7: Records. FIA. Archived from the original on 2008-12-21. Retrieved 2008-10-16.
  4. ^ Ferguson, George. "The Run Was A Natural Gas". Sports Illustrated November 09, 1970.
  5. ^ "Rules & Records". Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials. 2014-02-23. Retrieved 2019-09-02.
  6. ^ "FIA World Record Requirements" (PDF). Federation Internationale De L'Automobile. 12 March 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  7. ^ Hull, Peter G. "Napier: The Stradivarius of the Road", in Northey, Tom, ed. The World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 13, p.1483.
  8. ^ G.N. Georgano Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886–1930. (London: Grange-Universal, 1985).
  9. ^ "Women in Motorsport - Timeline". Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  10. ^ "A bela e trágica história de Hellé Nice". Balconista SA (in Portuguese). 2019-12-05. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  11. ^ Twite, Mike. (1974), "Breedlove: Towards the sound barrier", World of Automobiles, Orbis Publishing, 2: 231
  12. ^ "Knowingly Navigating the Unknown Archived October 31, 2015, at the Wayback Machine", Maria Russo, The New York Times, May 7, 2013
  13. ^ Ellen Jares, Sue. "The Renaissance Woman of Danger—That's Tiny Kitty O'Neil". People. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  14. ^ Phinizy, Coles. "A Rocket Ride To Glory And Gloom". SI Vault. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  15. ^ "Deaf stuntwoman Kitty O'Neil sets women's land-speed record". History. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  16. ^ Fadini, Ugo (20 August 2002). "Who holds the "wheel-driven" LSR?". Retrieved 2008-11-09.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Fadini, Ugo (17 August 2002). "Don Vesco becomes undisputed holder of the "wheel-driven" LSR". Retrieved 2008-11-09.
  18. ^ "Ugo Fadini Burkland Family Streamliner". 2008-12-27. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  19. ^ "Ray the Rat's Chevy Asylum". Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  20. ^ "Speed Demon". 2010-09-15. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  21. ^ Squatriglia, Chuck. "This is what 426 mph looks like." Autopia. Wired. August 24, 2011.[1]
  22. ^ "Treit & Davenport". Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  23. ^ Cheromcha, Kyle. "Here's What A 427-MPH Crash on the Bonneville Salt Flats Looks Like". The Drive. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  24. ^ a b c d e "List of Records Category A" (PDF) (in French). FIA. 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
  25. ^ a b c d "Appendix B: Category A". Records. FIA. Archived from the original on 2008-11-16. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
  27. ^ "Poteet & Main Speed Demon, 439.024 MPH". 12 February 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  28. ^ "OFFICIAL LIST OF WORLD SPEED RECORDS HOMOLOGATED BY THE FIA IN CATEGORY A" (PDF). FIA World Land Speed Records. Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). Retrieved 2015-09-03.

External links

  • Autoracing Speed Records at Curlie
  • Aussie Invader official website - Australian challengers to the supersonic showdown
  • The UK Land Speed Racing Association
  • Speed Record Club - The Speed Record Club seeks to promote an informed and educated enthusiast identity, reporting accurately and impartially to the best of its ability on record-breaking engineering, events, attempts and history.
  • The Land Speed Record in the Sixties: an on-line collection
  • Land speed Record site for dedicated enthusiasts
  • SCTA site
  • Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials