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Honda establish Formula One land speed record 18 Jul 2006

Alan van der Merwe, Honda 007, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA. © Honda Racing

Honda have set a new land speed record for a Formula One car. Driver Alan van der Merwe clocked an aggregate best of 355 km/h (just over 250 mph) at the Bonneville Salt Flats on Monday. Now the team are hoping to go further and achieve their declared target of 400 km/h by the end of the week.

At 0800 hours local time, van der Merwe piloted his race legal Honda 007 along a seven mile-long straight, achieving an aggregate speed of 354.975 km/h (220.571 mph) over two runs of a measured mile. The speed, recorded by both the FIA and the United States Auto Club (USAC), represents the fastest ever recorded by a Formula One car over a timed distance (pending official FIA ratification) under land speed record criteria.

“We’ve made huge progress today by setting this new benchmark for an F1 car,” said van der Merwe after the team’s success. “On my first runs this morning, I doubted we could do it because the surface was so slippery. I had a spin or two, but the salt surface came to us and we were able to set this new record.

“We haven’t done 400km/h yet though, which is our ultimate target. In a way it’s quite nice we didn’t, because it shows that this is a genuine challenge and not just a case of us turning up, nailing it and going home. You have to work for every extra mile an hour here and we may not break the 400 mark, but that’s still our goal.”

The technical challenge of getting a race legal Formula One car (albeit it with a few modifications for ultra high-speed straight-line running) to travel beyond 400 km/h on an unpredictable, unstable salt surface has proved to be a huge test for Honda’s ‘Bonneville 400’ team.

Nevertheless, the project’s technical director, Gary Savage, was clearly pleased with the record, especially as it was also a new mark for the A2-8 class of land speed vehicles, and a new best speed of 355.499 km/h for the flying kilometre.

“That’s got to be a good day by anyone’s standard!” he said. “However that is just the surface of our challenge. Underpinning this whole effort is our attempt to take a high tech piece of equipment like an F1 car and run it at high speed on a natural and highly unpredictable surface. It’s one hell of a challenge, and we’ll come though that. Now we want carry on tomorrow and try to push the time closer the team’s target of 400km/h.”

Mike Cook, President of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) and a veteran of several land speed record attempts at Bonneville, has been expert advisor to Honda on the project and was also full of praise for their efforts.

“I am delighted the Bonneville 400 guys have reached their main targets to become the fastest F1 team,” he said. “It’s been a great deal achieved and they have approached setting this record with passion and humility. It’s a speed that will be noted all over the world and I wish them more success tomorrow if they try and go even quicker.”