Speed Scotland heartbreak17 | 08 | 2012

    SPEED SCOTLAND'S BID to break the 1000cc World Land Speed Record of 313mph ended in heartbreak when its car ground to a terminal halt on the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

    The Lesmahagow-based team was accelerating rapidly towards the record on its final run of the week when the rear axle on its methanol-powered Streamliner broke.

    "The Salt has been horrendously rough this year," Derek Palmer, boss of Scots team ProMotorsport which prepared the car, explained today.

    "We've lost count of the number of cars which have been taking part in Speed Week which have been battered into submission by the roughness of the surface.

    "It's a great pity, because we'd solved the gearbox problem which hampered us in the past two years, so to be beaten by the conditions is difficult to take.

    "But when Mother Nature deals her hand, you just have to be able to deal with it. Unfortunately, this year she beat us."

    That the Speed Scotland team — backed by EFG International and Swiss watchmaker Maurice de Mauriac, — was even able to put together a final run on the Salt was testament to their dedication, commitment and ingenuity.

    The week started with thunder and lightning, followed by rainstorms which turned the Salt Flats into a porridge-like surface.

    See more photos of Speed Scotland's world record bid

    Then, on its first high-speed run, as the car, named Flower of Scotland, sped towards 250mph, the engine suffered a conrod failure.

    The next 24-hours were lost as the team fitted a new engine, but when they returned to the Salt the speed was immediately there, and hopes again rose.

    But the team was dealt another blow late on Wednesday when, as the car again edged past the 250mph mark, flames erupted in the engine bay.

    "That was a particularly scary moment," Speed Scotland driver Rick Pearson admitted. "I was aware of a stronger-than-usual smell of methanol in the cramped cockpit.

    "The car cruised past 191mph in second gear, then I flicked it into third and we kept accelerating.

    "Suddenly though there was a cough from the engine and the car stopped accelerating.

    "A fuel pipe coupling had failed in the engine bay and neat methanol was being sprayed on to the exhaust manifolds. The Flower was in flames at 250mph."

    Speed Scotland in flames at 250mph

    Undaunted — and in a coolness which betrayed the searing 100-degree heat on the Bonneville Salt Flats, allied to the fire in the engine bay — Pearson deployed the car's parachute and flipped open the canopy when the car had come to rest.

    "As I stopped, I was instantly surrounded by emergency vehicles," Pearson continued, "and the crews emptied their fire extinguishers at the car."

    Once the burnt and blackened car car was returned to the team's garage, it was discovered the entire wiring of the car was crispy and the boost controller/engine management box had melted.

    Miraculously though, the engine started again at the first attempt. The damaged wiring was pulled out, and the car was set to run again.

    Ultimately though, the Flower of Scotland succumbed to the battering it took on the Salt.

    "On the final run, again accelerating smoothly passed 270mph, the car first began to handle strangely. Definitely not what you want at that speed, in a car just 22in wide," Pearson continued.

    "But I wasn't stopping for anyone, or anything. But suddenly there was a cacophony of noise from behind me. The vibrations had ripped all the studs out of the rear axle.

    "Once we got back, we discovered that in addition to the damage to the rear end, the battering had damaged the steering.

    "Thankfully, while our systems had ensured it wasn’t an issue on track, for safety reasons there was no quick fix. It was over for 2012."

    Will the team return for another bid in 2013?

    "To be honest, we don't know," Palmer stated. "We've raised the level of sponsorship this year with the help of EFG International and Swiss watchmaker Maurice de Mauriac, but the vast bulk of the cash has come out of our own pockets.

    "It's a big commitment. Every year we're getting closer and closer. We'd love to bring the World Land Speed Record back to Scotland, but I think we'll need to find some extra sponsorship first."

    McLaren MP4-12C Can-Am

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    Jim McGill

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