Speed Scotland in flames at 250mph14 | 08 | 2012

    SPEED SCOTLAND DRIVER Rick Pearson, bidding to break the 1000cc World Land Speed Record on the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, had a narrow escape when his car caught fire at almost 250mph.

    Pearson — driving the Lesmahagow team's 22in-wide, methanol-powered Streamliner named Flower of Scotland — was accelerating rapidly in the team's latest attempt to break the current 313mph record.

    But as the ProMotorsport-prepared car, backed by EFG International and Swiss watchmaker Maurice de Mauriac, approached 250mph, Pearson suddenly smelled burning.

    "It's definitely not what you want when you see 250mph coming up on the digital readout," Pearson, determined to exceed the current 313mph record this week, said today.

    "After the team had spent the previous day fitting a new engine in the car, after the conrod failure we had earlier in the week, we were feeling pretty confident.

    "Soon after I started the run, 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.

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    "Suddenly though there's 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 on fire at nearly 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.

    "I could see all the paint was blistered and there was clearly a fire burning under the engine cover. Thankfully for the team, the fast response time of the emergency teams meant it was quickly under control."

    As the burnt and blackened car was towed back to the Speed Scotland pit area, Pearson feared the worst.

    "I thought that was it," he admitted. "I was convinced that was our 2012 attempt to become recordbreakers over."

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    But the Speed Scotland team, under the watchful, determined eyes of ProMotorsport boss Derek Palmer, had other ideas.

    "The entire wiring of the car was crispy and the boost controller/engine management box had melted," Palmer explained.

    "But when we looked at the engine and gearbox, they were completely intact, so we tried to start the engine: and she immediately fired back into life. We build them pretty strong, we Scots.

    "We ripped out the toasted wiring and replaced it, and the car's as good as new — well, almost as good as new — and we're ready to give it another blast tomorrow.

    "The Salt Gods, in a strange way, were smiling on us today. Let's hope they smile even broader when we make our final attempt to break the record."

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    Jim McGill


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