After its first successful low-speed run last week, the British Steam Car was taken to the MoD’s Thorney Island facility near Portsmouth for a series of higher speed runs on Wednesday and Thursday.
Early reports are of the car and crew performing well, with the steam generators building pressure successfully and the safety systems shutting down the car quickly when a small defect was detected. The team of six engineers is learning to turn the car quickly and prepare it for a return run within the allotted time of one hour.
The British Steam Car’s target velocity is 170mph, which would net them one of the longest-held speed records, set by Fred Marriott, who achieved a 121.57mph flying kilometre record in the Stanley brothers’ Rocket at the 1906 Florida Speed Week. The target speed will also net the team and its principal backer and record-breaking driver Charles Burnett the records for the kilometre and the mile, as well as beating Sir Nigel Gresley’s 126mph 1938 Mallard steam locomotive, the world’s fastest steam loco. Burnett has plenty of experience of speed record breaking on water and set the offshore powerboat speed record of 137mph in 1999.
The team has already had a meeting with Edwards Air Force Base in California about the possibility of running the car on a dry lake bed next year once the winter rains have dried out. It has also reconnoitred a number of potential Californian suppliers of essentials such as propane fuel, demineralised water and team accommodation. The team also met up with the Southern California Timing Association, which will be helping the team with the surveying the record-breaking course and, of course, the timing. That’s all planned for next year, however, and after this week’s test runs the 25ft car will go into storage at the team’s base in Lymington, Hampshire.