New Zealand Land Speed Records re-visited….

7 02 2012

There is renewed interest in the New Zealand Land Speed Record, as another attempt is announced….

I was recently approached to write my recollections of my Record breaking runs back in 1995 and 1996.

I have attached my ramblings here….  I hope you enjoy them….


My New Zealand Land Speed Record Attempts….

7th February 1993 Dr. Rodger Freeth had set the NZ Land Speed Record along West Canal Road, Waitakaruru, driving a Lola Ford Indy Car single seater, capable of 400+ km/h, taking the record from Keiran Wills, Mazda V8 TranZam, who had set the record 23rd March 1991, at 185.95 mph.

Rodger had found the road at Waitakaruru so bumpy that he couldn’t take his hands off the wheel to change into the higher gears… so the record he set was 313.25km/h.

A very dangerous thing to do on a narrow bumpy road, with trees and fence posts on one side and a Canal on the other….

Rodger was killed in a rally car crash in Australia, co-driving with Possum Borne.

I thought it would be quite special to set the Outright NZ Land Speed Record to shield it, (in Rodger’s memory) and sort of protect it, from other Record attempts that would follow… Rodger and I (and Possum Borne) were all sponsored by CRC , so we were friends by association with our sponsor, and Rodger borrowed and used my Porsche to try West Canal Road, between runs in his Indy Car.. This showed him that the road’s bumps were the problem, not a handling problem with his car… We hotted up my old 1983 Porsche 930 Turbo Road Car, by fitting a larger turbo and intercooler, and a better engine management system. The German’s had achieved 217mph or 348km/h in a similar car to mine (wide bodied Porsche Turbo) with 575hp and a taller top gear, on a closed German Autobahn, so we figured it could be done….  Kiwis can do anything better than most….

We managed to get close to 600hp and fitted the taller top gear.  It was VERY FAST on the road tests (all done on quiet, empty roads, of course…)  so we were all set to go.

When I inspected the road at Waitakaruru, I found that the council had re-sealed most of the length of West Canal Road for Rodger’s attempt, but they had left a large bump onto the old, very bumpy roadway at approximately ¾ distance along the 5 ½ km. This only gave me 4km of usable road to accelerate and then slow down from my attempts. Not enough room for my old Porsche.

I tried East Canal Road, just on the other side of the Canal, and found it was bumpy all the way along the 5 ½ km  but I figured I could manage this better than trying to jump the huge bump at the 4km mark on West Canal Road. It didn’t seem too bad at 200km/h… even at 250km/h it was OK… Just!!  BUT at 300+km/h it was suicidal….!!! The car was getting airborne on the big dips and undulations….

I had to request a road closure from the local council, for 31st October 1995, and this means you have to book the road 6 weeks in advance, so you have no way of knowing what the weather will do on the chosen day.… As it happened the day was a cold blustery, wet and windy day….  Not ideal.…  and NOT Fun at all….  L  L I managed to complete 8 runs (4 each way, within I hour of each other as required by the regulations for setting an officially recognized F.I.A. Land Speed Record Attempt) and managed to gain a new record for the fastest road car in New Zealand, but the outright record eluded me… that still belonged to the late Dr. Rodger Freeth, and I now had HUGE respect for his determination & ability.

I started looking at some of the options in the South Island, and found many long straight roads, but they all had bumps along the way… and I had definitely had enough of big bumps, and the subsequent low flying that it caused my Porsche to do….  Not a pleasant experience at all….  !!  The very frightening, near death experiences of East Canal Road will remain in my memory cells forever… !!!

Someone mentioned to me that there was a long straight, smooth road at the back of Reporoa, called Goudie Road, behind the Broadlands housing estate, and running alongside the Kaingaroa Forest, between Rotorua and Taupo.   So my wife Katy and I checked this out one fine day,  in my unmodified Porsche 930 Turbo (the ex-Brian Peace race car that I had purchased) and I knew immediately that this road was suitable… because we sped along this quiet empty road at 260km/h each way,  and Katy didn’t scream at me to slow down…  This was heaven, compared to the hell I had been through at Waitakaruru…  :o)

I then set about getting all the paperwork in order, to F.I.A. specifications, to try for the record here.

First I went to the Kaingaroa Forest…   They didn’t want to maintain Goudie Road any more so they had given it to Taupo Council… Taupo didn’t want to maintain it so they gave it to Rotorua Council.  Finally I found someone to talk to and gradually our request was approved.

To be officially recognised the ‘test road’ must be within 1% of level throughout the entire test area, including the pits, and the run up and run down areas…  so you have no advantage of downhill acceleration at all…. This meant I had to have an official survey done of the entire 7km length of Goudie Road, and guess what?? It had only 30 meters of fall from one end to the other..!!  Incredibly level, since we were allowed to have 70 meters fall. For this reason Airfield runways are not suitable, as they have 2% fall, to help water to disperse. Things you learn doing Land Speed Records  !!

Next I had to apply to M.A.N.Z. to put all the correct paperwork in place. I found Willard Martin extremely helpful here and he introduced me to the team of time keepers that we were going to need to hire, to make this all happen. They had to carefully measure out exactly 1 kilometre and 1 mile and mark the road and set out light beam timing systems to record it all very accurately… Slowly the whole event  fell in to place.

CRC and Pit Stop came on board with sponsorship to help cover the costs of all the accommodation, food for all the large team, official fees, mechanical rebuilds, etc. etc.  so we were finally all set for go..go..go..

Remember I said we had to book the road closure  6 weeks in advance (to allow notification to residents, and to allow for  objections, etc.), and this time I booked 2 days, just in case the first day was another wet one….

I decided that I would give this Record attempt to myself as a 50th birthday present.  My birthday is 10th March 1946, so the closest I managed to book was 16th March 1996 (and 17th as spare day) only 6 days after I turned 50yrs old….

We (the M.A.N.Z. Officials and all the time keepers, family, friends and helpers) stayed in a Motel at Rotorua, and woke on the 16th March 1996 to an overcast and not too friendly looking day. We decided to give it a go anyway, so all headed out nice and early to try to beat the wind and rain and get the record set.  Well… fate was against me yet again, as the first run at approximately 280km/h showed that the engine tuning team had turned things the wrong way, and leaned it out!! And the engine was damaged!! They had convinced me that a new ‘Super fuel’ would be more powerful and better to use… but now we know.. don’t mess with things at the last minute!!!   We put it back on 100 octane Avgas  and continued….

So, with a damaged and partly melted engine I had no option but to wind the boost as high as it would go, and try for the record until the engine expired, or exploded!!! We couldn’t repair it overnight, so waiting for better weather was not an option either.

Each run produced a little more speed as we removed parts of the car to lessen the weight, or reduce the wind drag. We lowered the car to stop the air getting underneath, and this helped as we edged closer to the 320km/h magic mark. This was a long way short of the 350km/h target we were originally aiming for, but probably the best we could hope for now, with our damaged engine and only a bit more than half our power now available, and a complete engine melt down imminent… We even rolled up race tape and filled the rain channels to reduce drag, race taped over every opening. I decided the engine was on its last legs anyway so we didn’t worry about cooling, we just taped over every opening in the whole car, even the doors were taped over. I joked to my brothers that if I crashed they had better get there quick to cut open the doors to get me out!!!

I was very happy to see well over 330km/h on my car speedo, but I was told later after analysing the data, we were suffering from slippage (or wheel spin) thanks to the solid rain on the road…. We were using Bridgestone RE71R Road Tyres, rated to 270 km/h, so we were not exceeding their specifications by too much !

All these little modifications worked so that we finally managed a one way run just close to the 200mph barrier, but the return run, against the wind and heavy rain now falling, was less, so the two way average was set at 316.92 km/h or 196.72 mph.

We hadn’t achieved the World Record of 348km/h for a road car, that we had hoped and aimed for, but we had succeeded in ‘protecting’ the New Zealand Outright Land Speed Record for Dr Rodger Freeth’s memory.

My oldest brother Tony, summed it up perfectly at the conclusion, when he said to me “At least when Owen Evans, or someone else takes this Record from you Ray, it won’t be as if they are taking it from someone Famous…. Like you just did….”   Thanks Tony  !


We had completed 12 runs (6 each way) along Goudie Road, Reporoa, before the engine finally expired, forcing us to drag the old “Ivory Beast from Bahrain” back to Auckland on a towrope (we weren’t a big budget outfit, and didn’t even have a trailer) behind my 2nd Porsche 930 Turbo, the ex- Peace car (but that’s another story…) This means that the old “Ivory Beast” 930 Turbo had completed 20 high speed runs at over, or near to 300km/h on a couple of little narrow New Zealand roads, with nothing going wrong. (apart from a leaking tyre, and expiring engine… but you get that on the BIG jobs…)

When Owen Evans had his HUGE crash we had rebuilt the engine to 600+hp and were planning our next L.S.R. attempt, but his accident brought home to us all, just how incredibly Dangerous a Land Speed Record attempt is in New Zealand (without a large, flat and safe desert to do it on) and how very Lucky I had been to survive 20 runs at full speed, so it was decided that we had done enough to put my name on the Castrol Trophy, beside some famous and brave heroes, and put the Porsche brand in the record books forever….

That’s about all from me…..  for now…….


Late Update…..

7 02 2012

Sorry it has taken so long to get back to this… We just get busier and busier, don’t we???

The 4 hour race at Taupo was AMAZING !!!  We qualified 2nd (on a damp track) behind the every impressive Dodson’s Skyline. But as the race start approached the weather took a nasty, wet turn… Most the front runners started on ‘super sticky’ wet weather tyres, but we (team decision…) decided to run on a set of Bridgestone Road Tyres.  My turn to start the race again, as Conal was happy to do the finish. Well…. as I slide and scrambled for traction I slowly lost more and more positions…  The Skyline disappeared into the distance, then both the Mitsubishi’s got past, then a Corolla !!  I was yelling into the radio that I wanted to come in and change tyres to try to be competitive, but the answer was “No,No, Stay out there… the rain is going to stop..!! ”  and “You are still ahead of the Mike Eady BMW !”  So I stayed out but couldn’t get any heat into the tyres, so I was really having trouble just staying on the track…. Luckily the rain did stop after nearly an hour, so suddenly I was able to heat up the tyres, and start to attack the gap to the cars in front.

By the time I had used up the tank of fuel we were back in 2nd position and looking quite good. Conal took over and drove magnificently to keep the pressure on the other competitors. Suddenly the Skyline stopped and we were winning!! BUT the heavens opened up again and soaked the track.. I was worried that Conal was pushing on too hard but he was having a ball….  Once the tyres had got up to operating temperature they were OK in the wet too, but take my hat off to Conal’s driving.. he was fantastic…  I was telling him (on the radio) to stay behind one of the Mitsubishi’s to stay in the dry line and stay on the track… but he passed it and drove away from it !!!!  I said to him “What are you doing!!’ His reply… “He’s going too slow!”

Conal really showed his skills in the wet, holding first place for the remainder of the race. He finally let Mike Eady past to unlap himself, then sat behind him, using his tyre treads to clear the water for a safer, fast finish.

So…   By winning both races we have won the Series as well…   A very happy team enjoyed some well earned celebrations………..   :o)  :o)  :o)

Winners at Taupo 4 hour Endurance Race, 11-6-2011

9 08 2011

Another win for the Conal Dempsey, Racing Ray Williams, Dempsey Wood Porsche 911 at Taupo.

Full update to follow  🙂

Pukekohe Endurance Race, 14-5-2011

16 05 2011

WOW….   What can I say but… Wow….  This is only the second time I have been in the winning car at this very tough 6 hour endurance race.  This year I am very grateful to the Dempsey Wood team for inviting me to drive alongside Conal Dempsey in his ‘Bridgestone-Porsche’ 1991 Porsche 911 Twin Turbo.  Car No 25

We started well enough in qualifying 3rd on the grid with a 1.02.637  Pole time was set by the very quick Nissan Skyline of Harry Dodson and Clark Proctor at 1.00.981 (whew that is fast on street tyres) Second was the Dean Perkins/Corkery Ford Falcon at 1.02.298

At the start I managed to pass the Falcon down the back straight and latch on to the tail-lights of Harry Dodson’s Skyline. Somehow I seemed to be glued to his back bumper for the first hour of the race, at qualifying lap times!! This was one of the most enjoyable races I can remember as we raced close but safely through all the slower traffic. Harry would get away a little as we lapped cars, but then I was able to close up onto his tail again, setting the fastest race lap in the process, at 1.02.907, and we were lapping consistently in the 1.03’s for that first hour until I snuck past as we were caught up in lapped traffic. I managed to put some slow cars between us but then Harry slowed and headed to the pits… his race was over.

We now had approximately a 45 second lead over the Dean Perkins’ Falcon. I stayed in the seat after the first refuel stop, and by the time we pitted for the second refuelling, after approx 2 hours 25 minutes, we were more than 1 lap ahead.  Conal Dempsey now took over driving his car and maintained  the healthy lead right in to the night session (yes, he had to do the blinding twilight laps over Ford Mountain into the setting sun)

So we were looking quite comfortable in the lead. But then the Altezza drivers, Booth/Ross/Udy who had been following Conal, told us they saw sparks flying off the right rear tyre as he powered out of the hairpin.  This meant that we were down to the steel belts on that tyre and it wouldn’t last much longer so this called for an unscheduled pitstop. Sure enough the tyre was totally fried, and with swapping it and refuelling we lost 2 laps to the Perkins/Corkery Ford.

Conal tried to put pressure onto the Ford by lapping sometimes faster, but always within a whisker of their times, and all the time trying to conserve the rear tyres (not an easy task with the Porsche loving to spin the rear tyres out of every corner..)  We had pretty much resigned ourselves to 2nd place when suddenly, at 236 laps the Ford blew it’s engine and we were back in the lead, by 10 laps..!!  This race sure can change in an instant..

Now Conal’s job was to nurse the car, and especially the rear tyres, through to the end of the race at 8pm.  But all was not well as the finish was approaching… suddenly we had Conal appear in the pits with another blown right rear tyre (oh yes, I forgot to tell you, the radio failed after the first half hour so we had no communication for most of the race.. so we just had to guess when the car was coming in for fuel, etc.)

One of our spare wet weather tyres was fitted and Conal limped slowly around for the remaining laps to WIN by 4 laps ahead of the two Mitsubishi Evos of Billington/Hourigan and Gill/De Veth/Verryt.   We managed to complete 300 laps in the 6 hours. We had hoped to break the record 302 laps, and we were on track to do maybe 305 but the tyre problems ended that hope….   We’ll have to try harder next year….   🙂   🙂

A very happy and tired crew celebrated after the race, as we collected our silverware, and marvelled at some of the famous names engraved on that beautiful Winner’s Cup.

BIG THANKS to all concerned;  the organisers, flag marshalls, officials, support crews and wives. It is a marvelous event, and we look forward to the next Endurance Round at Taupo 11th June.

I especially want to thank Conal Dempsey, of Dempsey Wood for letting me race their Porsche.   🙂   🙂   🙂

Another Win for the Ivory 930 Turbo

9 05 2011

Well, we have had a ‘Hot’ and ‘Cold’ couple of weeks lately.

Tuesday 5th April saw us out to Pukekohe for the Mercy Hospice ‘Race 4 Life’ day where once again, we took lots of less fortunate people for some Hot Laps around the track.  I was lucky to be allowed to drive Tim James’ Porsche Boxster for the day, and we certainly put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces. These days are so rewarding because you know that some of them won’t be around for next year’s event, but they are so happy to be entertained on the day and put a ‘tick’ against the dream of a Hot Lap in a race car before they pass on.

On the Weekend of 15th to 17th April saw me helping Guy Stewart to race my old Porsche GT2 (the ex-leopard spotted car) around the streets of the Hamilton Street Race Circuit. Guy hadn’t been to the circuit before and hadn’t raced the car in the wet… so I was able to advise him of the best setup for the conditions and he had a really good and safe weekend, surviving with only a slight mechanical hiccup to fix… a lot better off than some of the competitors who had lots of damage to repair.

The following weekend was the final races of the Porsche Bridgestone Race Series, over Easter, at Taupo.  Once again I was helping the Dempsey Wood team to prepare and race the two 911 Porsches. Conal Dempsey in his twin turbo class A+ car, and Jeff Lowrey in his 964  class A car.  Conal came to this meeting leading the Championship by a slender 25 points.  Both Conal and his closest rival, Ian Hayr in his GT3 cup spec. car qualified within a split second of each other for the front row of the grid.  Conal won the start but Ian was charging very hard and sadly made heavy contact into the side of Conal’s car before the first lap was complete. The resulting damage to Conal’s car put him out of the race and the championship was virtually handed to Ian from that point.  In the  Sunday races Conal set a new lap record and easily beat Ian’s GT3 in both the races, but all that Ian had to do was follow Conal home to take the Championship Title.  A sad end to an otherwise very close and exciting battle all season.   In the other classes the racing was mostly clean and trouble free.  Brent Greer completed his very impressive season, winning his class and taking the Overall Bridgestone Club Champion Title.

May 1st saw me once again racing my old favourite Ivory Beast at Hampton Downs in the TACCOC Classic Race Meeting.  I had some great scraps with Derek Atkinson’s Morgan Plus 8, and John Honore’s Ferrari 308.  I managed to win the first scratch race (win  number 155) but stuggled in both the handicap races, finishing 2nd and 3rd in those. The results were good but the car still had it’s intermittent misfire…  so we changed the proximity sensor and checked it out, ready for the next weekend’s final round of the Arrow Series also at Hampton Downs.

7th May The Arrows Series were sharing the Hampton Downs Race Track with the NZ Rally. We raced until 11am then the Rally cars ran until 1pm, then we raced until 4pm then the Rally cars finished off after that.  The car was running beautifully in qualifying to get pole position, just a little faster than Bruce Manon’s Escort and Grant Kern’s MGBV8 (very fast) but the engine died as I pulled back in to the pits… (the same old cutting out when hot, trick…)  we cooled the proximity sensor with cold water and it started again, but it cut out and would not allow me to take my pole position for the 1st race… so that was a DNS (did not start)  We managed to refit the old faulty proximity sensor before the second race and I was able to start at the rear of the field in the handicap, along side Bruce Manon. I won the drag to the first corner, the car ran sweet as I cut through the field and had the first placed car, the Porsche of Kerry Chatterton in my sites on the last lap but suddenly the engine lost power. A small O2 sensor plug had popped out of one of the heads causing loss of power and making a terrible noise. Sadly I couldn’t make it to the finish line so it was back on the trailer for a DNF (did not finish)  Not the best way to end my day’s racing but, as they say “That is Motor Racing”   We will have to fix the head and replace the proximity sensor with a more reliable type, then…  “We’ll be back…”

The one consolation for the day was that we did set the fastest lap time of the meeting, 1.14.3

Another Great Day of Motor Racing for RW930

10 04 2011

Sunday 3rd April 2011 saw me at Pukekohe for the TACCOC Classic Racing one day meeting.

Good old RW930 was running pretty well, although I still have an intermittent misfire somewhere… and it cuts out when hot, after a race, and won’t re-start for 10 to 20 minutes..!!

We managed to qualify on pole, but in the race I was pleasantly surprized to see Derek Atkinson in his Morgan Plus 8 leap from around 6th on the grid, right onto my back bumper, and he stayed there for 6 laps!!  We both got into the 1m.05s.  On the penultimate lap Derek passed me at braking on the outside heading into the back straight hairpin, but overshot the hairpin just a tad, and half spun to give me a clear run to the flag. So we notched up win number 154.

The next two races were handicaps, so I started behind Derek and chased him hard for 3 laps, both again into the 1m.05s but as i exited the hairpin I got too much wheelspin in my eagerness to try to pass Derek, and the fanbelt melted and spun it self off the pulley. So I had to head to the pits for a DNF. Sadly it is a 2 to 3 hour job to change a fanbelt on this engine when it is HOT… so I didn’t get the job done in time for the last race, so I was a DNS (did not start…)   boohoo.

Andy Turpin in his mighty (and fabulous sounding) Jaguar XJ12 won the 2nd race, ahead of Roy Bingley and Derek Atkinson.  Newcomer Roy Bingley in a Holden Commodore won the last race from Richard Oxton (yes, David’s son) and 3rd was Ken Williams (my brother) in his Mercedes 280 Coupe.

I took the old Porsche apart and modified the fan belt area, so now we can change the belt in approx 20 minutes…. much better for next time.    :o)

Christchurch Earthquake 22nd February 2011

3 03 2011

Just two days after our last races at Pukekohe there was a Nasty, Fatal earthquake in Christchurch.

All of New Zealand is in Shock and we all send our Heartfelt Sympathy, and Best Wishes to all the Survivors, and their families and to all the many, many willing helpers.   God Bless.