Steam land record speed attempt delayed

An attempt by enthusiasts behind a British-built steam supercar to break a century-old world land speed record for steam-powered vehicles was today delayed for 24 hours following a minor throttle problem.

The 25ft-long British Steam Car - dubbed the "fastest kettle in the world" - is aiming to beat a speed of 127mph reached by American Fred Marriott in a Stanley steam car in 1906 at the Daytona Beach Road Course.

It is the longest officially-recognised land speed record, but the British team hope to overhaul it by reaching a target velocity of 170mph with their car at the Edwards Air Force base in California.

A team spokesman said: "They attempted the record and did the first run fine, then turned the vehicle around with a view to doing a second run, but then detected a problem. Rather than put the car at risk, it was decided to abort the second run, with a view to attempting the record tomorrow."

The Lymington-based team hope to fix the vehicle's throttle issue later today.

Earlier this month it was agreed to defer the record attempt until this week following a series of "technical issues".

However, the vehicle has managed to reach speeds of more than 130mph following a series of test runs on US soil after the team arrived there in July.

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) officials, who arrived on the site yesterday, are due to calibrate and record the team's official world record attempt. Runs can take place until August 22, the team spokesman added.

The driver for the record attempt will be Charles Burnett III, a nephew of Lord Montague of Beaulieu, who made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1999 for an offshore water speed record of 137mph.

Other team members include the 48-year-old test driver and father-of-two Don Wales, nephew of the late speed ace Donald Campbell and grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell.

Weighing three tons, the British Steam Car is made from a mixture of lightweight carbon-fibre composite and aluminium wrapped around a steel space frame chassis.

Using Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), the car is fitted with 12 boilers containing nearly two miles of tubing. Demineralised water is pumped into the boilers at up to 50l a minute and the burners produce three megawatts of heat.

Steam is superheated to 400C which is injected into the turbine at more than twice the speed of sound. Large Goodyear tyres and brake discs help bring it to a stop, and the car is also kitted with a parachute.

In April, during testing at the Ministry of Defence's Thorney Island facility in Emsworth, Hampshire, the car reached a speed of 72mph and all the vehicle's systems worked perfectly.

The Edwards Airforce Base has low altitude, meaning more oxygen for the car's burners.

Officials said the team needs seven miles of track to make the record attempt, which precluded it taking place in the UK.

In 1985, the Barber-Nicholls team reached a speed of 145mph in their vehicle, Steamin' Demon, but no attempt was made to have it officially recognised by the FIA.

However, the British Steam Car team said it acknowledges the speed as the record to exceed.

The FIA recognises a land speed record as the average speed of two passes made across the same measured distance in opposing directions within 60 minutes of each other.

The time of the two runs is then averaged to obtain the official recorded speed.

Tomorrow's attempt will take place between 2pm and 6pm UK time.

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