Bird leaves speed team with nothing to crow about

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The Independent Online
A wayward crow put paid to an attempt to break the British land speed record yesterday, when it crashed into the air intake of a jet-powered drag racing car travelling at 150mph. The mishap happened at Elvington airfield, near York, when Colin Fallows was accelerating towards the target of 259 mph on the first run of the day in his specially adapted car, aiming to break the 17-year-old record.

The damage prevented the jet engine from working to capacity - but even so Mr Fallows, 47, averaged 248.27mph over a quarter of a mile run during a later attempt yesterday.

"The accident meant we were running 100mph short of our target. It's one of those things with record breaking - one day it works and the next day it doesn't," said Mr Fallows, an engineer from Hartwell in Northamptonshire.

"I'm not a big fan of wildlife at the moment, but we'll be back another day. We'll go back and have a considerable number of beers tonight and then find the spare parts, fix it and come back again." No date was determined for the next attempt.

The existing British record was set by Richard Noble, who is currently preparing to challenge his own world record of 633mph and break the speed of sound in a jet-powered machine during September or October at the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, in the United States.

Mr Fallows had hoped to break the record and reach an average speed of over 300mph on the quarter-mile run in his car, nicknamed Vampire, which is 8.8 metres long and powered by a Rolls-Royce jet engine taken from an RAF Red Arrows Gnat aircraft. On previous runs it has been unofficially clocked at 266mph.

To qualify for a record, the car must make two runs timed by independent officials over a quarter-mile stretch of road or runway; the official speed is then the average of the two. Mr Fallows had hoped to exceed 300 mph in his 16-year-old car.