Thrust SSC - Mach 1 Club

Thrust SSC Daily Telegraph Mach 1 Club

Mach1 Club member Anthony Edwards was there when Andy and ThrustSSC broke the World Land Speed Record for the first time. Here are his memories of that day ...

A Day To Remember

25th September 1997

Well we awoke at 7.00am when the alarm went off to the sound of what appeared to be someone frying eggs. It was in fact the sound of rain falling on the roof of the RV! This was a depressing sound as today was supposed to be the day ThrustSSC broke the existing Land Speed Record of 633.468mph set by Richard Noble in 1983. Looking out the window things did not look too good - although it was only lightly raining it was overcast, grey and giving a good impression of British weather. Despite this we all got up with the first person getting the water boiling for the coffee.

We had spent the night with the RV outside the Black Rock Saloon in Gerlach so it was just a short drive of about 15 minutes or so to the ThrustSSC Pits on the desert. Mike drove the RV with Damien and myself in the back along with Radar and Jim who we gave a lift to while Chris followed along behind in his hire car. After a while we came to Access 1 and onto the desert arriving at the Pits after a slow 30mph drive to cut down the dust. It had stopped raining by now but it didn't look promising.

It wasn't long before there was the security meeting given by Paul Remfrey where all the security team made up from Thrust Team and Mach 1 Club members were assigned their positions for the runs. There were six main access points onto the desert the main two being Access 1 also used by Spirit of America and Access 2 used by Thrust and the main assembly point for the press. This time Mike, Chris and myself were given Access 6 to control. This was on the other side of the desert from Accesses 1 and 2 where there was a rail-road crossing and at about the Mile 2 point. We took a hand held radio and after a radio check with Jayne Millington set off to find Access 6.

We went south to find the end of the tracks at Mile 0 so we would completely avoided crossing the tracks. We then headed east until we were passed the Spirit of America tracks and could safely head north. Although none of us had been to Access 6 before we did have a map and eventually arrived at what appeared to be the right place parking the RV facing the tracks with a clear view up and down the desert. I left the RV to head into the dunes at the side of the desert and found the rail-road crossing. I returned hastily to the RV not in excitement to tell Mike and Chris we were in the right place but because it had started raining again and this time far more heavily.

ThrustSSC was due to rollout at 10.00 am but as it there was now steady rain at the Pits Jayne broadcast to us all that there would be a 2 hour postponement and asked each of us in turn to acknowledge that we were willing to remain on station. We confirmed that we would and I started to prepare coffee - one advantage of using the RV! Over the next two hours there were various calls from different parts of the desert giving reports of rain. It seemed that there was plenty of rain but thankfully they were only short light showers. Access 3 was getting the worst of the weather and the security people there were a little worried about getting stuck on the desert. We knew that their "access" was in fact about a mile from the edge of the desert so their concerns were well justified.

The two hours passed quickly and luckily the weather improved enough for ThrustSSC to be rolled out just after half past twelve and we could see through binoculars the car being slowly towed out to Mile 0. We were constantly checking for bandits and only saw a couple of motorcycles heading off towards the south end of the desert close to the deserts edge. Shortly Jayne went through all the Accesses confirming that the Desert was clear.

"Access 6, Pit Station. Confirm Desert clear"

"Pit Station, Access 6. Desert clear apart from a long thin black thing in front of me"

Mike's reply caused a short snigger from Jayne before she switched off her microphone. I left the RV armed with my camera and the loan of Chris's scanner so I could hear what was going on. I found a small dune about 12 feet high which gave me a great view of the track. Just being 12 feet higher allowed me to see ThrustSSC at Mile 0 and all the way up to the two Mile sign boards at Miles 6 and 7 and the Press Pen way in the distance behind them.

I could see ThrustSSC start its engines and the firechase racing up to its position at Mile 7 before ThrustSSC began the first run. Despite being here for nearly three weeks this was the first time I had been close enough to see it start. There was a lot of smoke and dust but surprisingly little sound - the playa seems to absorb quite a lot of the noise. The car sped off and quickly passed the Pits then the Spectators and on through Miles 4 and 5 and into the Measured Mile before it disappeared from view. The silence was broken by Jayne relaying Andy's message that the first chute had worked. All the testing of the lanyards the previous day had been worthwhile. After Jayne confirmed that SSC was stopped and safe the next voice heard over the scanner came from the USAC Timekeepers with the speed - 700.661mph for the measured mile. Great! Just need to turn around and complete the return run within the hour for a new record.

For what seemed an eternity nothing was heard over the radio. Was everything with the car OK? The chute was fine but was there some other problem that would prevent the second run? Jayne confirmed that everything was fine and there would be an engine start in the next five minutes. Then there was the "2 minutes to run" call and a vertical plume of dust and smoke appearing way in the distance at Mile 13 - Andy was on his way. The car screamed its way through the measured mile and into view and was certainly going faster than last time. As it came nearer it was clear that it was now slowing and Andy deployed the chute which again worked perfectly and came to a stop exactly in position at the Mile 0 mark. Shortly after, Jayne confirmed ThrustSSC was safe followed almost immediately by the USAC Timekeepers with the times - 728.008mph for the measured mile. You wish you had a calculator so you could work out the average but the Timekeepers have already done this - it is 714.144mph. You quickly realise that not only is it a new Land Speed Record but that the 700mph barrier has also been broken. Also Richard's existing record has been shattered by the biggest margin in Land Speed Record history 80mph!

Andy, smiling at last!

There is no time to take it all in as Jayne quickly comes over the radio to tell us to proceed as fast as possible to Mile 0 to act as security for the car as we are the closest. In theory we are but she doesn't know that I am having to run across the desert the 100 yards from the dunes to the RV as fast as I can so that don't leave without me! Cameras and binoculars are hastily thrown aside and Mike races the RV the two miles to ThrustSSC remembering to take a route that misses the tracks.

There are already a number of people assembling at the car. Several people from Spirit of America Pits have arrived to congratulate the Team. Everyone is taking turns to shake hands with Andy who unusually is smiling! We soon see why. Adam has stuck a couple of pieces of masking tape to Andy's back which read "The fastest man on Earth, ever".


Adam also points out that he has put one on the car which reads "The fastest car in the world, ever". Unfortunately he has missed out the first letter s so it reads "fatest" and is straight away awarded the furry dice! The Team members pose for photographs in front of the car - everyone is smiling. You can feel the joy in the air - the car was now a Land Speed Record car.

Andy, smiling at last!

The Supacat is hooked up to the back of the car and the tow back to the Pits begins. We drive our RV along side at the speed of the Supacat with security from Access 1 on the other side. It's only a mile but at 5mph it seems to take forever. At the Pits we park the RV in the car park and rush over to the press conference. Everyone is excited and congratulating each other with Queen's "We are the champions" blazing out from the Pit Station. The press conference goes well with Richard pouring champagne over Andy when he got too boring! Richard announces that the usual one-to-one press interviews which are charged will be free - he must be happy! We escorted the car back around the Pits and in front of the Aireshelta where all the members of security have their photos taken by the Paris Match photographer in front of the car.

Later on when the press and the public had left the BBC gave a barbecue at the Pits to start the celebrations. After this we left the desert to head back to Gerlach and parked outside the Black Rock Saloon. We prepared a pasta supper and afterwards headed into the Saloon to begin the celebrating which went on until the early hours. I gave up at about 1.30am and retired only to be woken up by Flash the barman outside the RV saying "Goodnight" and driving off. I looked at my watch it was 5.10am. It was certainly was one hellova celebration as someone I know would say!

The victorious team

Anthony Edwards
(Pictures: Anthony Edwards)

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