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We get the Blind Record Back for South Africa
Hein Wagner (left) with SpeedrecordSA’s Ray Wakefield after setting the new record
At first light on the morning of 6th October 2009, Hein Wagner, a Blind-from-birth Capetonian, drove into the record books for the second time when he set a new World Land Speed Record for a Blind Driver at 200.393 mph on the 5.5 km long runway at Upington International Airport in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa.
Alongside him sat his navigator, Ray Wakefield of Speedrecord S A.
Wagner was also first to break the 150 mph barrier when he clocked 150.5 mph over a flying kilometre in a 4.5 litre Maserati in Mafikeng in September 2005, also navigated by Ray Wakefield.
Ray explained “ After our previous success we often spoke of going for 200, but a suitable car was always the problem. A couple of months ago we learned that Mike Newman, the blind bank employee from Sale, was going to America to try to achieve his long held ambition to be the first to 200 mph, and we decided to pull out all of the stops to get the accolade first. After trying just about every conceivable manufacturer in South Africa, a Johannesburg businessman offered to loan us his AMG Mercedes 65SL Black Series.
This twin turbocharged car, with 670 bhp on tap, was thought to be capable of doing the job, and after a couple of shake down runs on the airport on Monday, we went for the record just after dawn on Tuesday when the air was still cool. Our first two of runs gave us figures tantalisingly close to 200, but after the owner did a bit of manipulation of his beast’s power plant (and probably ruining his cat converter, as well as his warranty) I parked Hein with our back wheels almost against the grass, and gave him the go-ahead. Using a code developed during the run up to our previous record attempt, I was able to keep him sufficiently on the straight and narrow for consecutive runs in each direction that confirmed our average to be just, and only just, over the double ton.”
“We might have gone a bit quicker, but it was already getting hot and we had achieved our aim of being first to 200.
Every one remembers the first team to conquer Everest, but no one can tell you who was second up, and to us 200 mph is the blind speed enthusiasts Everest.”
Braking to a standstill after a run. Note the red-hot dics! (photo courtesty Prophotographs)
To round the morning off, a standing quarter mile was run. The local traffic police department set up their laser equipment at the end of this and recorded Hein’s terminal velocity at 204 kph (126.76 mph). “They then gave him a speeding ticket for exceeding the county’s statutory 120 kph limit and, in view of his serious violation, threatened to impound the car and lock him up and throw away the key, but when Hein told them in all honesty that he hadn’t seen any speed limit signs, they rescinded and joined us for a celebratory glass of champagne instead”.
On our flight back to Cape Town later in the day, we stopped off at Hennie Strydoms farm on Verneuk Pan. Landing the chartered Beechcraft Baron on his extremely short runway proved to be possibly the most hazardous part of the whole venture as just as we were about to touch down, a couple of sheep decided to run across the track in front of us. I still have visions of our just clearing the end of Hennie’s barn as Ed, our pilot, slammed open the throttles and went round again.
We went there in order to meet up with Andy Green, who was doing a bit of a survey of parts of the pan. It was great to meet up with him again, and a great opportunity for the fastest sighted driver to meet the fastest blind driver!
Hein and Andy Green at Verneuk pan.
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