Sir Malcolm Campbell and Verneukpan

South Africa is once again the centre piece for an attempt on the world land speed record. It is not the first time. The activities at Haksteekpan where the British Bloodhound vehicle will have a trial run takes us back to 1929 when the famous Sir Malcolm Campbell and his Bluebird car attemped to break the land speed record and go faster than 300 mph at Verneukpan.

The attempt did not go according to plan. Here is a short version of the attempt at Verneukpan as published in Wikipedia:

“In 1929 the pan was used by Sir Malcolm Campbell, attempting to raise the land speed record in his Napier-Campbell Blue Bird. The trip to the Bushmanland was not an easy one for Campbell. First he lost his briefcase with important papers in it. Secondly he survived when his aeroplane crashed in a tree near Calvinia. A threatening assignment was facing the people preparing the track. Willem Louw was in charge sweeping the pan. Puffadders and scorpions were very common in the area and the temperature could rise to 42C in the shade during the summer. Campbell and his crew underestimated the Verneukpan’s tricks.

The track, starting from a hill on the outskirts and striking into the heart of the pan was supposed to be 16 miles (26 km) long. It was spread out directly west-east and looked straight into the rising sun. The dust devils were a major hazard for Campbell. Mirages created phantom trees and ghostly men on stilts. Extremely sharp stones were spread all over the pan’s surface. When these stones were removed, holes were left. The day of the Flash in the Pan was postponed time after time. A tortoise on the track, was named Blue Bird II.

During the setbacks, the targeted record of 200 miles per hour (322 km/h) was pushed to 231.36 miles per hour (372 km/h). Campbell wanted to reach 300 miles per hour (483 km/h), but his mean speed for the measured mile was 218.45 miles per hour (352 km/h). He failed to break the record when the coarse surface damaged his tyres. He had vanquished the speed record he had come to South Africa for, but it was 6 weeks too late. With only one set of tyres left, he took on the 5 kilometres (3 mi) record, reaching 202 miles per hour (325 km/h).

The Bluebird started her last run on 25 January 1929, at 05:00, under the moon and the early light. She flashed like a silver bullet along the white line that stretched beyond sight. He set two records that day. The first for the 5 kilometres (3 mi), reaching 211 miles per hour (340 km/h). Secondly for the 5 miles (8 km), reaching 212 miles per hour (341 km/h). He promised to come back in his Springbok. He eventually never did. In a new Bluebird designed by Reid Railton, Campbell broke the land speed record four more times at Daytona. In 1935 Campbell did exceed 300 miles per hour (483 km/h) reaching 301.337 miles per hour (485 km/h) at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, becoming the first man to exceed 300 miles per hour (483 km/h) on land. The track that he compacted on the pan is still visible today.

Source: Wikipedia