The phrase: "If record-breaking was easy, everyone would be doing it!" is fast becoming a cliché in land-speed circles. Take the last few months for example: Breedlove and Spirit of America crashed at a reported speed of 675mph in October; while in November the ThrustSSC team were rained off Jordan’s Jafr Desert with the first floods for 5 years.
History supports the claim that is a challenge only for the dogged few, and the struggles of the Thrust2 team to overcome bad luck and bad weather from their first American venture in 1981, to their record in 1983, are an excellent example of how badly nature can treat would-be record breakers. Not only were they rained off in both ’81and ’82, but their arrival on Black Rock in ’83 was delayed by the time taken for the Sierra Nevadas to shake off the appalling legacy of the previous winter. There is a wonderful quote in the documentary of that successful attempt: "You have to earn your record"!
You certainly do, and this is a good time to take stock of the situation in the race to Mach 1 on land. Breedlove is busy rebuilding his car for a fresh attempt on Black Rock - his timescales are likely to be governed by the ability of that desert to dry, which historically does not happen before June. ThrustSSC is undergoing studies and modifications to the rear suspension geometry to cure the high-speed shimmy experienced in Jordan, and is likely to be back in the Middle East towards the end of March. The third Northern Hemisphere challenger - albeit for a subsonic record - did not make it to Black Rock Desert last autumn. Although the North American Eagle team (formerly American Eagle One) have not stated why, finance is believed to have been one of the difficulties.
The advantage currently lies with Rosco McGlashan and his new all-Australian challenger, Aussie Invader 3. With the Southern Hemisphere now enjoying summer, the vast expanse of Lake Gairdner is approaching readiness for his latest attempt - what’s more, his car and team are also ready. At the time of writing, Rosco’s Web Site indicates that a lack of finance is holding up the preparations, even intimating that they may not be able to go ahead if the money cannot be found in time. We hope that it can - the more competitors there are, the greater the challenge.
McGlashan’s situation is not unique - Breedlove’s Web Site includes an appeal for finances to help rebuild his car, and cash is tight for ThrustSSC, too. That team knows only too well that when they do return to Al Jafr in the spring, this time they cannot leave until they are running at independently-verified speeds in excess of 650mph.
So once again the quest to set a new World Land Speed Record reveals a facet over and above that of driving at high speed across a desert or salt flat. To do so, it will first be necessary to raise the finance to get there.
Why should a sponsor choose to invest their hard-won marketing budget with a World Land Speed Record attempt? A look at the PR figures achieved by ThrustSSC during the Jordan operations reveals a compelling answer: the circulation in the UK alone reached some 40.1 million people with 10,000 column centimetres of coverage in November alone. Looking abroad, just under 800 journalists are following the ThrustSSC story using the innovative ICL Sorbus IT PR system, while the global television coverage reached an audience in excess of 100 million people. In France, a 6-page Paris-Match feature on Thrust reached 5 million people, while Germany had similar features in Der Spiegel, and the Americans had, among others, a photo on the front page of the Washington Post to admire. The interest levels in Spain are quite fantastic. All these people are now familiar with ThrustSSC and its quest - and they want to know more.
Herein lies the exceptional opportunity to sell such a project as a marketing vehicle (no pun intended!) - sponsors will kill for these sort of promotional figures. No longer are the numbers merely hypothetical - they are hard, proven facts. Consider also they are extremely competitive with the best of the well-funded circuit racing teams. Throw in the added spice of the Sound Barrier, and any team with an operational car now has the perfect fund-raising opportunity.
All four competing teams have operational cars - they must now make their deals and head for their chosen sites.
"Gentlemen, light your engines!"
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