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Britons Steam to Victory

  • Tuesday, 1st September 2009
  • Reading time: about 2 minutes

Attendees of Edward’s Air Base, California, were able to see history being made earlier this week as Charles Burnett III successfully broke the long-standing land speed record for a steam powered car – achieving an average speed of 139.843mph on two mile-long runs.

Achieving a top speed of 151.085mph, Charles Burnett III broke Fred Stanley’s record speed of 127mph, which was set in 1906.

Weighing three tons, the 25ft long car is made from a mixture of lightweight carbon-fibre composite and aluminium, wrapped around a steel space frame chassis. The bulk of its weight comes from the vehicles 12 boilers, which contain almost two miles of tubing, and its fuel. Demineralised water is pumped into the boilers at up to 50 litres a minute and the burners produce three megawatts of heat. Steam is superheated to 400 degrees Celsius which is injected into the turbine at more than twice the speed of sound, according to a team spokesman.

“”It was absolutely fantastic I enjoyed every moment of it,” said principal driver, Charles Burnett III, speaking of his achievement. “We reached nearly 140mph on the first run… the second run went even better and we clocked a speed in excess of 150 mph. All systems worked perfectly, it was a really good run. It is a privilege to be involved with such a talented crew, what we have achieved today is a true testament to British engineering, good teamwork and perseverance,” Burnett added.

Due to the cars fixed gearing, acceleration is slow and therefore the car requires a long track to achieve its top speed. Because of this, the team had estimated they needed a minimum of six miles to make the record attempt.

Project Manager, Matt Candy said, “”There are no runways or man-made flat surfaces six miles long – it has to be a natural feature. Beaches, lake beds or salt flats are often chosen for speed record attempts, including the well-known Bonneville Salt Flats.”

Rogers Dry Lake Bed, California, part of the 308,000-acre Edward’s Airforce Base, was the site selected for the record-breaking run.

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