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South Africa to host new outright World Land Speed Record bid
Posted by : Ray Wakefield - Date: 01 December 2009 at 09:15

It has long been the view of Speedrecord S A that this country has some of the finest - if not the finest - venues for speed record competition in the World. Indeed one might say that without this belief, Speedrecord S A would never have been formed.

Now one of the most important and influential persons currently in the field agrees with us.

On the 24thNovember, Andy Green of the Bloodhound SSC team announced that, following a search that has literally scoured the globe, followed by numerous desk studies and in many cases, subsequent site inspections, South Africa has been chosen for the team's bid to become first to take a car to 1000 miles per hour ( 1609.34 kph).

Bloodhound SSC - Artist Impression

Having pencilled in Verneuk pan as a likely location following his initial visit here a year ago, a lot of detailed work took place, revealing that the famous 1929 Campbell course, whilst being ideal for all vehicles needing no more than 10 - 11 miles of track, would require realignment and extension for any machine needing a length in excess of this. The minimum of twelve miles (19.3 km) necessary for Bloodhound, would necessitate a large amount of stone removal and some slight surface work to ensure a smooth surface over the entire length.

Though this would not have been a show stopper, it would have added cost to their programme, however, following a visit in October, when new Blind record holder Hein Wagner and Ray Wakefield met up with Andy on Verneuk pan, (see previous item) the team became aware of a site that we had earlier discounted at Hakskeen pan. Our reasons why we had passed over this site some years ago were primarily due to it being bisected by a raised causeway, coupled with it being approached by one of the worst roads in imaginable.

What neither Andy nor ourselves knew when we met however was that in the course of the past year, the Local Authority has built a new tarmac road which runs around one side of Hakskeep pan, thus allowing the old dirt road to be bulldozed out. This makes it possible for an area approximately 12 miles long by just under a mile wide to be prepared. There is less stone on the surface of this pan but the removal of the road, and subsequent reinstatement must be very carefully undertaken to avoid subsequent differential settlement compared to the surrounding terrain. Hitting a bump at above the speed of sound is an experience best avoided!

The provincial Government of the Northern Cape, who own the land, are extremely enthusiastic about the forthcoming attempt, which will probably take place in mid 2011, and indeed are providing tangible help to the team in the preparation of the site. A major part of the Bloodhound Project aims to encourage school pupils to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and as Northern Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins says, she is very excited that they will get an opportunity to be part of the exchange of technology and science education programmes through the project. "It will expose our youth to enormous opportunities, and the Province and Country will benefit from the economic assets brought about by the project".

Within hours of this news being made public in England, our office received an enquiry from another front-running team in the race to 1000mph. The immediate problem now is to find a supplier of high purity Hydrogen Peroxide( known as High Test Peroxide, or HTP). If this can be sourced here, or someone will consider importing it from overseas, we face the exciting prospect of two teams vying for the honour of being first to the magic 1000. The resultant publicity and general boost to the economy, not just of the Northern Cape, but the Country as a whole, will be immense.

So with a tarmac strip of 5 km at Upington, and two world class playa venues within 200 km of the town, the N.W. part of South Africa is set to eclipse the United States as the place to go to set World Records.

However as if that were not enough, literally just over the road from Hakskeen pan lies Koppieskrall pan.

This received little more than a cursory glance when the writer was up there last. At the time it was covered in a crusty layer of dried mud, but looked eminently useable if a little work was done on it - no stones, and the potential of about ten miles of useable playa. So suddenly we can boast of a wide range of interesting venues - and it has taken the World eighty years to realise it!!

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