Interesting News and Tips

The history of land speed records in Australia

By in Interesting News and Tips

An unlikely racing track in central South Australia hosts one of the most thrilling forms of motorsport, namely Land Speed Racing.

When Lake Gairdner dries up in March each year it turns into a solid salt lake 160 km long and 48 km wide. Through the Dry Lakes Racers Australia, the annual Speed Week event on the salt lake attracts speed demons from all over the country and from around the world.


The earliest form of motorsport

As well as being a popular event for showcasing high-powered cars and motorcycles, Lake Gairdner has been the site of various land speed record attempts over the years. Though the first Speed Week was held here in 1990, Land Speed Racing actually has a long and illustrious history in Australia. It is generally considered one of the earliest and purest forms of motorsport.


Australia’s unique landscape

Australia has many large lakes that, when dry, become concrete-hard salt; the perfect conditions needed for dry lakes racing. But only a few are suitable for attempts on land speed records. One of them is the abovementioned Lake Gairdner and the other is Lake Eyre further north, known as Australia’s “dead heart”. In 1964 a British racer called Donald Campbell set a world land-speed record at Lake Eyre in ‘Bluebird K7’ reaching a speed of 649 km/h.

An Australian photographer Jeff Carter described the experience of Bluebird hurtling down the 32 km track in his book Four-Wheel Drive Swagman (1969). For 60 seconds there was silence, Carter wrote,

“Then the eerie, whistling scream of Bluebird’s huge jet engine reached us. A split second later we could see the familiar blue speck, apparently floating above the horizon in the eternal mirage… Bluebird rocketed past us in a shockwave of heat and noise, fluttering us like autumn leaves as we hung grimly to out teetering tripods.”


Competing in Land Speed Racing

To be able to compete in Land Speed Racing, you need a specifically designed and constructed vehicle which is highly scrutinised to make sure it complies with the rules of the event and is safe enough to run. If it is given the go ahead each competitor makes a timed run to try and better the speed of a previous competitor. The overall goal is to have your time recognised as a record.


Rocket powered cars

Since Donald Campbell’s attempt, times have moved on and vehicles are now competing with jet and rocket propulsion. The current World Land Speed Record for a jet-propelled car is 1223.657km/h held by Andy Green who achieved this in the Black Rock Desert USA. This was the first supersonic land speed record in the world and it broke the sound barrier.

But there is an Aussie speedster who is hoping to break this record. Rosco McGlashan rom Perth currently holds the Australian land speed record at 802.6 km/h from 1994 at Lake Gairdner. With the Aussie Invader 5R, powered by single rocket motor, he hopes to reach a speed of over 1,600 km/h in the next few years. Read more about the exciting Aussie Invader land speed challenge.