Speed Record S.A. ::: Locations/Pans ::: Verneuk Pan
Verneuk Pan - the new Bonneville
A serious Land Speed Record contender with experience of the Bonneville Salt Flats has recently judged Verneuk pan to be superior in many ways to the American venue. It is now possible that two World Record attempts may be made in South Africa in the next few years.
Throughout the history of land speed record breaking there have been a number of venues that have become available, been used extensively then, as speeds have risen, become unsuitable and been discarded in favour of something better. In the formative years, when motoring was largely centred in Europe, almost all early record attempts were made on that Continent.
As speeds increased however, the traditional venues like Arpajon, Brooklands, and Pendine sands became too cramped. This coincided with the automobile boom hitting America, and with it, the passion for speed, and it soon seemed as if firstly the beaches, and later the Salt Flats of the New World was the only place to go if you wanted to re-write the record books. Indeed, since 1927, every World Land Speed Record except one has been set in the USA, by far the greater number of these at Bonneville Salt Flats.
1929 Malcolm Campbell travelled to Vernuek Pan in what is now the Northern
Cape Province of South Africa in order to try to steal an advantage over
his rivals Ray Keech and in particular, fellow countryman Henry Seagrave.
History records that his attempt was unsuccessful, and any further
thoughts of him or anyone else going there to make a future bid for the
title were soon forgotten.
Fortunately in the last seventy-four years Verneuk Pan has remained virtually untouched, whilst the infrastructure around it has developed such that today it can once more be considered a prime site for the setting of World Land Speed Records.
The pan is quite vast - it is claimed to be 57 km long and 11 km wide. (35 X 7 miles).
Campbell's original track is situated near the South West edge. This has been extended since his attempt to a length of 17 km, and could with very little effort be further extended to well over 20 km. (12.5 miles). The pan is formed of a dry alkali mud, which is consistent and very firm. During our recent trials it allowed the ribs forming the periphery of the wheels of the rocket powered streamliner Maximum Impulse to cut sufficiently into the surface to provide lateral control without the rim proper impacting on the ground to cause 'tramlining'. It provides good traction for wheel driven vehicles, and there is very little dust present. In places the surface is scattered with small stones, but it has been shown that most of these can be removed by mechanical sweeping, and the track then fodded in the normal way.
Local labour can be hired at a ridiculously low cost to assist with this latter task.
Water can be made available, but as may be expected, there is no electricity. Cellular (i.e. mobile) telephone coverage is poor, but for any serious record bid this would no doubt be upgraded - probably at little or no cost - by one or other of the service providers in the country.
The best time of year for an attempt is between the end of May and Mid August. One can be assured of fine weather with little or no wind, and no rain. Temperatures can fall to below freezing at night, and reach around 25°C (77°F) during the day.
The pan remains consistently dry throughout the day.
Furthermore, with South Africa being a less litigious society than others
in the Northern Hemisphere, there are no pettifogging restrictions such as
are commonly found at the more established venues. All of these factors,
coupled with the very favourable Rand to Dollar/Euro/etc exchange rate
makes Verneuk Pan worth very serious consideration by anyone hoping to get
their name in the record books.
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