The Timeline: Land speed records



1898: Smashing the 40mph mark


Frenchman Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat sets the world land speed record at a track at Achères in France.

His electric car, made by stagecoach-maker Jeantaud, completes a 1km circuit of the track in 57 seconds. After three laps and the end of the car's battery, the Frenchman's average speed is announced: the fastest man in the world had reached a heady 40mph.

1927: Technical innovation

Things get technical in the 1920s when Sir Malcolm Campbell teams up with jet engine manufacturers Napier to build a special car for his attempt at breaking the record. The Napier-Campbell Blue Bird car uses a 500bhp Lion aero engine and smashes the previous record, reaching a speed of 195mph at Pendine Sands in Wales. Campbell immediately professes his disappointment at not having reached 200mph but gets there a year later in the USA.

1947: Faster and faster

Aeronautical technology finds its way into racing cars. Driving his jet-propelled Railton Mobil Special, Englishman John R Cobb reaches just under 400mph at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Cobb attempted the same feat on water, but lost his life when his Crusader boat flipped after hitting choppy waters on Loch Ness.

1960s: Brothers in speed

The title of "Fastest Man on Earth" goes back and forth between two men. Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove battle it out to be the king of speed in a series of runs on the Utah Salt Flats. A good-natured rivalry builds and the record is pushed from just over 400mph to 526mph, which Arfons attains in his Green Monster car.

1997: Feeling supersonic

Although supersonic aircraft had been around since the early 1950s, it took a further 40 years for a car to break the sound barrier. In the summer of 1997, former RAF pilot Andy Green drove his Thrust SSC right through the sound barrier, reaching Mach 1.02 (763mph). Green was garlanded with the highest honours in the racing world, including the Segrave Automobile Club Trophy and Cobb Cup from British Racing Drivers' Club. His record still stands.

2011: The Bloodhound

The Bloodhound SSC car goes into production in the US. The car, from the same team behind Thrust, is designed to be the most aerodynamic land vehicle ever built, with jet engines capable of reaching up to 1,000 miles per hour. It's hoped to be ready for testing by 2012.

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