A British car, Inspiration, has finally broken the century-old world land speed record for steam-powered cars, subject to ratification by Federation Internationale d'Automobile.
The previous record of 127 mph was set by the American driver Fred Marriott at Daytona Beach in 1906.
Inspiration - AKA “the fastest kettle in the world” – averaged just under 140mph on a two-way run at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The car was driven by Charles Burnett III, a nephew of the motoring enthusiast Lord Montague of Beaulieu, and Don Wales, grandson of a previous British record-breaker, Sir Malcolm Campbell was a test driver for the project.
Record-breaking, like motor racing, is one of those niches that the UK has continued to dominate even as the mainstream British motor industry has declined. The outright world land speed record for all vehicles – over 763 mph – has been held by a UK car, ThrustSSC, since 1997, while the JCB Dieselmax has held the world land speed record for diesel-powered cars since 2008.
Inspiration is also faster than the holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives, the Mallard, which reached 126 mph on the East Coast Main Line near Grantham in 1938.