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Honda Breaks Land Speed Record

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Justin Pritchard
Three days, three records broken

The Honda Racing Formula One team recently spent several days on the Bonneville Salt Flats, recording an average speed of nearly 400 kilometres per hour in the Honda Formula One race car. The record occurred on the third day of attempts, with driver Alan van der Merwe behind the wheel.

(Photo: Honda Racing)
Since Tuesday, the team has broken three FIA class world records. The speeds are recorded as an average over two runs of the Bonneville flying mile. Driver van der Merwe also piloted the F1 car to a new record in the flying kilometre, averaging 397.481 km/h. Both speeds represent the fastest speeds achieved in a Formula 1 car.

Testing began at 6:40 am and the record-breaking run occurred just after 9 am, with the car running consistently over 390 km/h all morning long.

The results still require ratification from the FIA.

Unfortunately, a driveshaft was lost later in the morning, causing damage to the differential. Despite the incident, the car had ran a distance nearly equal to three Grand Prix races in a hostile environment of sand and salt, and as such could be excused. The 3.0 litre V-10 was reportedly reliable and confident in its performance all day long. Keeping the power planted firmly to the salty surface were Michelin F1 tires, with Michelin staff on hand to offer advice on setup changes. Honda reports that the tires performed exceptionally well during the runs.

(Photo: Honda Racing)
Despite not quite averaging 400 kilometres per hour, the Honda Formula One team was satisfied with the results. Alan van der Merwe said "I think in general the feeling is satisfaction with what we achieved. It would have been nice to have a round number [400] for the record and we were only 2 and half kilometres off that. In fact, we know we did everything possible to the car; we timed it exactly right today with the weather and we're pretty sure we couldn't have got more out of it, possibly another kilometre an hour but we would have needed freakishly good weather to do that."

Summing up, he commented "It's been a great week".

Mike Cook, president of the Southern California Timing Association was also pleased with the team's efforts to stay and push further for a higher record speed. He jokingly mentions calling the Formula One Hot Rod Team, because of their efforts to "do everything humanly possible to make the car run as fast as it has".

The project is a testament to the dedication and enthusiasm of the Honda team, intended to prove what the F1 car is capable of when outside of the racetrack setting. Honda's success at Bonneville will be a difficult record to beat for years to come.

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Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert