Generally speaking, sports car enthusiasts love the feeling of going fast. When someone sets a new land speed record, you can bet these people imagine themselves behind the wheel.
Here are some fun facts about this phenomenon also referred to as the “absolute land speed record.”
The land speed record is the highest speed achieved by a person using a vehicle on land. It is the average of two runs or “passes” made in opposite directions over a fixed length course within one hour. In order to be considered a record, a new time must exceed the previous record by at least one percent.
No one entity has the authority to measure or certify an attempt at setting a new record. However, regional or national organizations tend to adhere to what are known as the “flying start regulations” set by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.
Many automobile clubs have claimed ownership of the rules surrounding the land speed record, but the Automobile Club de France was the first in 1902. In 1924, another club, the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus, was able to produce consensus on certain standards including the two passes (to negate any wind effects) and the maximum grade of the driving surface.
The Wheel-Driven Debate
When the record attempts were first introduced, there was agreement that a vehicle must be wheel-driven. Later, turbojet and rocket-powered vehicles – neither of which provide power directly to the vehicle’s axles – came into the picture and a separate category was created. Ultimately it was agreed that the absolute land speed record could be achieved by wheel-driven vehicles or those using other forms of propulsion. Since that time, no wheel-driven vehicle has held the absolute record.
British Royal Air Force pilot Andy Green achieved the current record of 763.035 mph in a turbofan-driven vehicle in October 1997. His record-setting effort at the Black Rock Desert in Nevada was the first to break the sound barrier, producing the characteristic “sonic boom.” (Sound travels at 761.207 mph.)
Fenders and genders
There is a separate land speed record for female drivers. It was first set in 1906 by Dorothy Levitt who reached 91 mph. The current women’s land speed record is held by Kitty O’Neil, who achieved a speed of 512.710 at the Alvord Desert in Oregon in 1976.
So, while it is unlikely you will ever hold the absolute land speed record, at least now you know what you would be shooting for… if you had a turbofan-powered car and an empty stretch of desert on which to use it. Please drive safely, and within a reasonable speed.
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