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Ray Wakefield - Date: 14 September 2005 at 16:09

Hein Wagner, accompanied by Ray Wakefield, becomes the World's fastest Blind Driver

Hein Wagner (left) being congratulated by his navigator Ray Wakefield,
after setting a new World Land Speed Record for a blind driver at 242.32 kph.

Speedrecord S A is proud to announce that on Thursday, 8th September 2005 Hein Wagner, a blind from birth self confessed 'speed freak', accompanied by Speedrecord S A's own Ray Wakefield, thundered down the runway at Mafikeng airport in the North West Province of South Africa in a Maserati Gran Sport to set a new World Record for a blind driver of 242.32 kph (150.50 mph).

This beats the record set by Mike Newman in 2002, using a supercharged Jaguar, at 233kph.

The 4.2 litre normally aspirated V8 Maserati was a stock model from the showroom of Viglietti, the enthusiastic importers of Maserati and Ferrari vehicles in Cape Town, and in fact on examination after the event was discovered to have contained some of the Chief Executive's shopping from the previous day in it's boot!

Following a wet practice on a small airfield the previous weekend when some of the limits of car, driver, and navigator were discovered - fortunately without damage -  the car was taken up to Mafeking to the 4.5 kilometre long runway of the airfield.

A 1.7 kilometre run up to the timing lights was a little too short for optimum, and the car was in fact still accelerating throughout the timed flying kilometre.

A routine developed between the driving team, with Wakefield sounding more like an auctioneer than a more conventional (rally) navigator, allowed Wagner to be kept constantly aware of his position on the tarmac.

"I used a sort of verbal shorthand"' said Wakefield, " Not only this, but the rhythm and inflection in my voice all was used to paint a sort of picture showing Hein not just where he was, but also where he was heading. It was so successful that towards the end of practice, if we had deviated by more than 5 metres from the centre line during a run, we thought it rather a bad effort".

The attempt was not without its moment of drama when an unauthorised spectator with a light truck gained access to the runway and parked right on its edge at the fastest point. "I thought the timekeeper had gone mad when I saw what I took to be his car on the very edge of the strip. Thinking I had misread the marker boards, I shouted to Hein to accelerate. Then when I realised what in fact it was, I had to immediately tell him to brake urgently. It took a bit of a combined effort to stop in a straight line, and our language, faithfully recorded on video, was somewhat colourful."

"I wonder if the lunatic with the pick-up truck realised as he cheerfully waved his Brandy and Coke at us as we toured past him in the reverse direction back to the start, that the car that had just swept past him twenty metres away at around 260 kph was being driven by a blind man!"

The record attempt was aimed at increasing public awareness of problems facing blind people and to raise money for the South African Council for the Blind.

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