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…….

 

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