SPEED RECORD ATTEMPTS





A beautiful 1:12 Model of the Mercedes-Benz T80. Click for more pictures

The 1930s was an age of speed records. Constructors like Macchi, Supermarine and Messerschmitt were fighting for the superiority in the air, a peaceful fight that a few years later would turn into a fight for life and death. Across the Atlantic Ocean four nations were fighting for the "Blue Riband" with ships subisidized by the states, the German "Bremen" and "Europa", the Italian "Conte di Savoia" and "Rex", the French "Normandie" and the British "Queen Mary". And on the Hallwiter Lake Sir Malcolm Campbell took his motorboat "Blue Bird" up to a speed of 124 knots. The British were also dominating the challenge for the absolute land speed record while the Germans found their niche in record breaking with Grand Prix cars on ordinary highways, taking advantage of the recently built "Reichautobahnen".
      The first speed record attempts had been held in 1898 between the French Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat and the Belgian Camille Jenatzy. Soon AIACR took over the organisation of such events and created a set of rules for record breaking. From 1911 onwards speed records over short distances had to be made in two runs in opposite directions with the average of the two runs counted as the record. Both runs had to be done inside a certain time limit (usually 1 hour).
      The record cars were divided in classes according to engine volume: The classes were:

A       > 8000 cc
B  5000 - 8000 cc
C  3000 - 5000 cc
D  2000 - 3000 cc
E  1500 - 2000 cc
F  1100 - 1500 cc
G   750 - 1200 cc
H   500 -  750 cc
I   350 -  500 cc
J < 350 cc
This page is concentrating on record breaking as a developement of Grand Prix racing. The A class battle for the absolute world record is also included in detail as Mercedes-Benz had plans to enter that class in the 1940s.
      Results service for pre-war motor racing is often full of contradictions and I soon found out that record breaking is one of the worst treated subjects. The poor numbers have been (incorrectly) converted from Miles to kilometers and vice versa so many times that all accuracy have been lost. I therefore had to take special care trying to found out the correct numbers. Luckily there is a way to check out the correctness. As the times were taken with clocks giving an accuracy of 1/100 s it means that with two runs the average times were computed with an accuracy of 1/200 s. Any correct speed has therefore to correspond exactly to a time of XX.XX or XX.XX5 seconds (many on the speeds available by different sources do not). In most cases I therefore had to guess the matching time and the recalculate the speeds (remembering that the Mile is 1609.344 m). The times used have been included in brackets, I'm hoping that the results on this page will set an example for future historians. Therefore I have also taken great care to mention the sources for each case.

IMPORTANT NOTE!

Giving the speeds with 3 decimals claming it to be the exact value is mathematically objectionable, as the following example will show you:
    If a car runs 1 km in 12 seconds it means it has a speed of 300 km/h. But measuring with 1/100 s accuracy those 12 seconds can be anything between 11.995 seconds and 12.005 seconds so the time is in fact indicating any speed between 299.875 km/h and 300.125 km/h. Giving that speed as 300.000 km/h with 3 decimals is therefore wrong. One decimal should be enough as in 300.0 km/h.
However, most books give the speeds with 3 decimals. I considered adding the 3 decimals values as footnotes but that would have increased the length of this page considerably so after a LONG hesitation, I decided to include all 3 decimals for comparision only, leaving the rounding off to one decimal to the reader.



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"Ab" Jenkins raises the 24 h record to 204.754 km/h (127.229 mph) at Bonneville, Utah with his "Ab Jenkins Special".
7 March 1934. The Hotchkiss team makes record attempts at Montlhéry breaking the 4000 Miles, 5000 Miles and 48 hours records.
5 April 1934. The Renault team takes the 48 h speed record at Montlhéry with a speed of 185 km/h.





CLASS C
AUTO UNION 4.4L
6 March 1934, AVUS (D)

Driver: Stuck
100 Miles:    
       216.875 km/h (134.760 mph) [44 min 31.42 s] World Record 
200 km:
       217.018 km/h (134.849 mph) [55 min 17.70 s] World Record 
One hour:     
       217.110 km/h (134.906 mph)                  World Record 

On 6 March 1934 Stuck showed the world the speed of the brand new Auto Union, breaking 3 world records at Avus. In a way it was also an "acceptance run", Porsche proving that his rear engined construction was technically sound. The enormous interest that these new records created made the German leaders aware of the great propaganda value in speed record breaking. (Note 1)




CLASS C
DELAHAYE 3.2L
8 - 10 May 1934, Montlhéry (F)

Drivers: Dhome, Girod, Perrot

12 hours:
       183,696 km/h  (114.143 mph)   [2204,35 km]  
3000 km:
       179,680 km/h  (111.648 mph)   [16 h 41 min 46.75s]
2000 miles: 
       179,654 km/h  (111.632 mph)   [17 h 54 min 57.72s]
4000 km: 
       179,288 km/h  (111.404 mph)   [22 h 18 min 37.88s]
24 hours: 
       179,201 km/h  (111.351 mph)   [4300,834 km]
3000 miles: 
       178,406 km/h  (110.856 mph)   [27 h 03 min 43.55s]
5000 km:
       178,329 km/h  (110.809 mph)   [28 h 02 min 16.78s]
4000 miles:
       177,669 km/h  (110.399 mph)   [36 h 13 min 56.32s] World Record
5000 miles:
       176,854 km/h  (109.892 mph)   [45 h 29 min 57.5 s] World Record  
48h: 
       176.294 km/h  (109.544 mph)?  [8462.112 km]?       World Record
10000 km:  
       168.527 km/h  (104.718 mph)   [59 h 20 min 15 s]   World Record 

The three drivers raced the car in 4 hour spells. After 12 hours the car had covered 2204 km. Then a small leak in the fuel tank forced the refueling stops to be increased. But the car went on, taking all records between 3000 and 5000 Miles. After the 48 hour record was taken it was realised that also the 10000 km record could be taken so the car continued for a further 11 hours. All together the car acchived 10 class records and 4 world records. (Note 2)




CLASS D
Maserati 8CM 3.0L
29 June 1934, Brooklands (GB)

Driver: Whitney Straight
1 km :    
       128.342 km/h (136.98 mph)   
1 Mile:   
       143.088 km/h (135.49 mph)  

Whitney Straight took his Maserati to Brooklands to take the British and International Class D records for flying start km and Mile.




CLASS G
ERA 1.1L
28 August 1934, Brooklands (GB)

Driver: Cook
1 km Standing Start:    
       128.342 km/h (79.748 mph)   [28.05 s] 
1 Mile Standing Start:   
       143.088 km/h (88.911 mph)   [40.49 s] 

The ERA team decided to have a go at the G and F class records with their new car. The team would have prefered to race at Montlhéry but time restrictions forced them to use Brooklands instead. Cook used the 1.1 litre car and after an unsuccesfull first run he broke both the km and Mile records in his second attempt. (Note 3)




CLASS F
ERA 1.5L
28 August 1934, Brooklands (GB)

Driver: Mays
1 km Standing Start:    
       137.352 km/h (85.347 mph)  [26.21 s] 
1 Mile Standing Start   
       154.621 km/h (96.077 mph)  [37.47 s] 

After Cook's record run Mays made his attempt in the larger 1.5 litre car taking the records in the first run.
(Note 4)





CLASS C
AUTO UNION 4.4L
20 October 1934, AVUS (D)

Driver: Stuck
1 km Standing Start:
       163.451 km/h  (101.564 mph) [22.025 s]       World Record
1 Mile Standing Start: 
       187.861  km/h (116.732 mph) [30.84 s]        World Record
50 km Standing Start:
       241.770  km/h (150.229 mph) [12 min 24.51 s] World Record
50 Miles Standing Start: 
       243.891  km/h (151.547 mph) [19 min 47.75 s] World Record
100 km Standing Start:
       244.898  km/h (152.173 mph) [24 min 30 s]    World Record

After the Grand Prix season Stuck and Auto Union went back to Avus to set 5 new world records, beating the old records by a huge margin. (Note 5)






CLASS C
MERCEDES-BENZ 4.0L
28 October 1934, Gyon (HUN)

Driver: Caracciola
1 km:
       317.460 km/h (197.261 mph)  [11.34 s] 
1 Mile Standing Start:
       188.656 km/h (117.226 mph)  [30.71 s] World Record
1 Mile:  
       316.592 km/h (196.721 mph)  [18.30 s] 

Mercedes-Benz decided they had to follow Auto Union into record breaking. For their first attempts they selected a concrete road section in Hungary. Henne started with the open car but after a supercharger failure he tried the closed car insted. The car lost its canopy at high speed. The canopy construction was removed and Caracciola took over as driver, making one world and two new class records. The 1 km record made Caracciola the fastest man in the world on a road. (Note 6)





CLASS C
MERCEDES-BENZ 4.0L
10 December 1934, AVUS (D)

Driver: Caracciola
5 km:
       311.985 km/h (193.859 mph)   [57.695 s]   
Caracciola made a new attempt to brake the 200 mph barrier, this time at the AVUS. The day was not totally successful, Caracciola failing to reach the magic barrier and only succeeding in breaking one record. (Note 7)



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Jenkins/Gulotta raises the 24 h record to 218.19 km/h (135.58 mph) at Bonneville, Utah with his 350 BHP "Ab Jenkins Special".



CLASS C
AUTO UNION 4.9L 15 February 1935, Firenze-Lucca (I)

Driver: Stuck
1 Mile:
       320.267 km/h (199.005 mph)   [18.09 s]  
The Auto Union team went to Gyon for record attempts but the circumstances were bad with snow so after two test runs the team went to Italy instead. After having dismissed the Milan - Varese road they finally made the record runs at Florence. On the return run of his 3rd attempt Stuck set a time of 11.01 on the kilometer, making him the first driver to run over 200 mph on a road but it was not accompanied by any good run in the other direction so Stuck failed to take Caracciola's record. But a combination of the 3rd and 4th runs gave Stuck the 1 Mile record which also was the fastest record made on a road. Stuck's 5th series gave his best km times of the day (11.34 & 11.37 s) being just short of Caracciola's speed. (Note 8)




CLASS A
BLUEBIRD 36.5L
7 March 1935, Daytona (USA)

Driver: Sir Malcolm Campbell
1 km:
       444.444 km/h (276.165 mph) [8.10 s]  World Record       
1 Mile: 
       445.322 km/h (276.710 mph) [13.01 s] Total World Record  

In March Campbell with a rebuilt "Bluebird" broke his own 2 year old world record (438.490 km/h / 272.465 mph) at Daytona Beach. (Note 9)




CLASS B
ALFA ROMEO 6.3L
16 June 1935, Firenze-Lucca (I)

Driver: Nuvolari
1 km:
       321.429 km/h (199.726 mph)  [11.20 s?]  
1 Mile:
       323.125 km/h (200.781 mph)  [17.93 s?]

The new Ferrari built Alfa Romeo bimotore was tested on 4 April at Maranello by Marinoni and on the 10 April by Marinoni and Nuvolari, the latter reaching 341 km/h. After having raced the car at Tripoli and Avus Nuvolari was ready for a record attempt on 16 June at the Florence - Lucca autostrada. Nuvolari was disturbed by sidewinds during both his runs making the car skid but he was able to race on scattering the road speed record and being the first to brake the 200 mph barrier.(Note 10)




CLASS B
ALFA ROMEO 6.3L
17 June 1935, Firenze-Lucca (I)

Driver: Nuvolari

Nuvolari was back the next day for the standing start km and mile records and for the flying 5 km and 5 miles records. However, the weather was not good and after some test runs by Nuvolari the record attempts were cancelled.




CLASS A
BLUEBIRD 36.5L
3 September 1935, Bonneville (USA)

Driver: Sir Malcolm Campbell
1 Mile:
     484.621 km/h (301.129 mph)  [11.955 s] Total World Record 
In autumn 1935 Campbell was back to better his total world record. As Campbell had come to the conclusion that Daytona was unsuitable for speeds over 300 mph he therefore decided to move his attempt to Bonneville in Utah instead. A time keeper error (12.38 s instead of 12.08 s giving a total of 12.005 s?) first gave a speed of 299.875 mph but later the time was corrected making Campbell the first to brake the 300 mph barrier. (Note 11)



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Early in the year Eyston raises the 24 h record to 239.95 km/h? (149.10 mph) and the 48 h record to 219.42 km/h (136.34 mph) at Bonneville, Utah with his "Speed of the Wind"
Jenkins/Stapp raises the 500 km record to 264.69 km/h (164.47 mph), 500 Miles record to 245.17 km/h (152.34 mph) and 12 hour record to 245.97 km/h (152.84 mph) at Bonneville, Utah with his 700 BHP "Mormon Meteor" but had to stop before breaking the 24 h record.
Cobb raises the 24 h record to 241.66 km/h (150.16 mph) at Bonneville, Utah.
September 1936. Jenkins took every world record between 50 miles and 48h. His 24 h record was 247.55 km/h (153.82 mph) and his 48 hour record 239.22 km/h (148.64 mph)




CLASS B
AUTO UNION 6.0L
23 March 1936, Frankfurt-Heidelberg (D)

Driver: Stuck
5 km:
       312.446 km/h 194.145 mph  [57.61 s] 

For the long distance records the highway between Frankfurt and Heidelberg was closed for all traffic for 2 days. To the press the record runs were announced as being "tyre tests". The record runs started on 23 March with Stuck trying to beat not only the B class record but also Caracciola's C class record for the flying 5 km. The Auto Union driver succeded in his second attempt. During the return the engine overheated destroying two cylinders and Auto Union had to postpone further runs to the next day. (Note 12)





CLASS B
AUTO UNION 6.0L
24 March 1936, Frankfurt-Heidelberg (D)

Driver: Stuck

5 Miles: 
       291.050 km/h (180.850 mph)  [1 min 39.53 s]
10 km:  
       288.623 km/h (179.342 mph)  [2 min 4.73 s]
10 Miles:
       286.459 km/h (177.998 mph)  [3 min 22.25 s]  World Record     
50 km:
       265.879 km/h (165.209 mph)  [11 min 17 s]    World Record
50 Miles:                 
       269.371 km/h (167.380 mph)  [17 min 55.4 s]  World Record    
100 km:
       262.966 km/h (163.399 mph)  [22 min 49 s]    World Record     
100 Miles:
       267.210 km/h (166.036 mph)  [36 min 8.2 s]   World Record   

During the night the engine was repaired but the next day started with heavy rain and it wasn't until noon that Stuck could start off his first record run. The track was still damp but that did not hinder Stuck from making 3 records on distances up to 10 Miles including a world record. Then Stuck made an attempt on the 100 Miles world record and took it also in the first attempt, making three other world records at the same time. He used a 113 km long section of the highway and at the end point Stuck had to stop and make a U turn for the last 48 kilometers of the 100 Mile run, making the 267.2 km/h record even more incredible. (Note 13)





CLASS B
MERCEDES-BENZ 5.6L
26 October 1936, Frankfurt-Heidelberg (D)

Driver: Caracciola
1 km:
       364.372 km/h (226.411 mph)  [ 9.88 s ]
1 Mile:
       366.918 km/h (227.992 mph)  [15.79 s ] 
5 km:
       340.522 km/h (211.591 mph) ? [52.86 s ?]  

After almost a 2 year pause Mercedes-Benz, trying to make up for their disastrous 1936 season, returned to record attempts. The short GP chassis was equipped with the V12 DAB engine and a revolutionary streamlined bodywork. Caracciola made 3 test runs with open frontwheels having problems with the gearbox each time, the car slipping out of top gear creating some valve damage. He made another try with covered wheels before starting his 1 km and 1 Mile record attempt. After taking the two records Caracciola made another set of runs achieving the 5 km record. Winds prevented further record attempts that day and the next. (Note 14)





CLASS B
MERCEDES-BENZ 5.6L
11 November 1936, Frankfurt-Heidelberg (D)

Driver: Caracciola
5 Miles:
       336.839 km/h (209.302 mph)  [1 min 26.00 s]  
10 km:
       331.889 km/h (206.226 mph)  [1 min 48.47 s] 
10 Miles:
       333.485 km/h (207.218 mph)  [2 min 53.73 s] World Record  
                                              
Mercedes was back 2 weeks later with a repaired car equipped with an airplane type windshield. On Caracciola's demand the new windshield was soon removed. After 4 test runs Caracciola set out for his 10 Miles record attempts bettering the world record and taking two class records on the shorter distances at the same time. (Note 15)





CLASS B
MERCEDES-BENZ 5.6L
12 November 1936, Frankfurt-Heidelberg (D)

Driver: Caracciola

The next day Caracciola tried to better his old standing start 1 Mile record. He was 2.8 seconds under the record on his first run but a supercharger failure prevented him from making the return run, ending the Mercedes team's 1936 season.



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27 May: Forrest Lycett in a 8 litre Bentley sets the B class 1 km Standing Start record at 81.5 mph at Brooklands.






CLASS B
AUTO UNION
7 June 1937, Rio de Janeiro (BR)

Driver: Stuck
1 km Standing Start:
       171.021 km/h (106.268 mph)? [21.05 s ?] World Record, not official
1 Mile Standing Start:
       201.098 km/h (124.957 mph) [28.81 s]    World Record, not official 

The day after having finished only second at the Rio Grand Prix Stuck saved his honour by taking two new standing start world records with his Grand Prix car. He bettered his own one km record and took over the one mile record set by Caracciola at Gyon 1934. However those records remained unofficial as they were not recognized by AIACR. These were to be Stuck's last speed record attempts. (Note 16)




CLASS B
AUTO UNION
16 June 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt (D)

Driver: Rosemeyer
1 km
       389.610 km/h (242.093 mph) [9.24 s] 
1 Mile:
       389.881 km/h (242.261 mph) [14.86 s] 
5 km:
       376.254 km/h (233.794 mph) [47.84 s]
5 Miles:
       368.505 km/h (228.979 mph) [1 min 18.61 s]
10 km:
       357.214 km/h (221.962 mph) [1 min 40.78 s]  
10 Miles:
       360.279 km/h (233.867 mph) [2 min 40.81 s] World Record  

Using the experience gained at the Avusrennen in May Auto Union decided to have a go at all class records up to 10 Miles in the fully streamlined car. After Eifelrennen, as a further demostration from Auto Union, the engine from Rosemeyer's winning car was removed and sealed to be used without service for the record attempts. After having made a practice run that nearly ended up in the traffic (incredibly the highway was closed off in only one direction) Rosemeyer started off his series of record runs. After having made two 1 mile runs setting records for 1 km and 1 mile Rosemeyer continued with two 10 Mile runs setting a new world record and two class records. A sidewind had pushed the car up on the grass twice and after the last run Rosemeyer did not jump out of his car as usual but remained sitting clearly shaken. However the incident did not hinder him from making a third set of runs for the 5 km record after finding out that the electrical timing device had failed during the first attempt. One world record and 6 class records was Rosemeyer's result for that morning. (Note 17)



REKORDWOCHE


CLASS B
MERCEDES-BENZ 5.6L
25 October 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt

Driver: Caracciola, Lang


To further use the propaganda value of record breaking the ONS (Oberste Nationale Sportbehörde für die Deutsche Kraftfahrt)
decided to dedicate a whole week for record attempts of all kind. The first and last official Rekordwoche was held in late October
1937. The day started off with test runs from both Auto Union and Mercedes.Benz. The new Mercedes was a developement of their
1936 record car with a new narrow streamlined body. Soon it became clear that the problem Lang had seen at the Avus race was
reappearing. At top speed the nose and front wheels lifted from the ground. After having done 379 km/h Caracciola refused
to make any further attempts and Lang was ordered into the car. Lang experienced the same trouble during his attempt and
when then air pressure made the engine cover blow off the car the Mercedes team decided to call it a day and sent the 
streamliner back to Stuttgart.






CLASS C
AUTO UNION 4.9 L
25 October 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt (D)

Driver: Rosemeyer

1 km:
       351.906 km/h (218.664 mph)  [10.23 s] 
1 Mile:
       353.271 km/h (219.512 mph)  [16.40 s] 
5 km:
       346.220 km/h (215.131 mph)  [51.99 s] 
10 km:
       334.510 km/h (207.855 mph)  [107.62 s]   

Auto Union had held thorough test sessons at the Halle-Leipzig highway with Rosemeyer doing over 50 standing starts and were confident to brake the 400 km/h wall. They sent three cars to the Recordwoche. Rosemeyer started off with a B class streamliner fitted with a 6 litre engine and on a test run he reached 400 km/h only to have supercharger failure on the return run. Then Rosemeyer took the C class cars instead and made four new class record. (Note 18)




CLASS B
AUTO UNION 6.0 L
25 October 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt (D)

Driver: Rosemeyer

1 km:
       406.321 km/h (252.476 mph)  [8.86 s]  
1 Mile:
       406.286 km/h (252.454 mph)  [14.26 s]

After the supercharger in the 6 litre car had been exchanged it was time for the B class record attempts and during the runs Rosemeyer became the first person ever to officially exceed 400 km/h on an ordinary road.
(Note 19)





CLASS B
AUTO UNION 6.0L
26 October 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt (D)

Driver: Rosemeyer
1 km Standing Start:
       188.679 km/h (117.240 mph) [19.08 s]  World Record
1 Mile Standing Start:
       216.423 km/h (134.479 mph) [26.77 s]  World Record  
The next morning Rosemeyer had a go at Stuck's inofficial records set at Rio de Janeiro. He used an open car with a shortened mountain climb chassis and a 6 litre engine and made two new official world records. (Note 20)




CLASS B
AUTO UNION 6.0L
26 October 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt (D)

Driver: Rosemeyer

5 km:
       404.585 km/h (251.398 mph)  [44.49 s]  

In the afternoon Rosemeyer made a new flying 5 km class record with the streamliner. On the return run poisonous fumes entered the cockpit and Rosemeyer expected a 400 km/h engine failure at any moment. The concentration to keep the car on the 7.5 m wide road waiting for the failure to happen was such that driver collapsed after the run and needed assistance from Peter Gläser, the team's doctor before he was able to leave the cockpit. (Note 21)




CLASS B
AUTO UNION 6.0L
27 October 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt

Driver: Rosemeyer
1 Mile Standing Start:
         223.176 km/h (138.675 mph) ? [25.96 s?] World Record.
       
On the next day, Wednesday, Rosemeyer made an attempt with a streamliner on the 1 km and 1 Mile standing start records set the day before. The heavy streamliner failed to take the 1 km record but the top speed was such that Rosemeyer bettered his own 1 Mile record with another 6 km/h. (Note 22)




CLASS C
AUTO UNION 4.9L
27 October 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt

Driver: Rosemeyer
1 km Standing Start:
       169.811 km/h (105.516 mph)  [21.20 s]  
1 Mile Standing Start:
       199.505 km/h (123.967 mph)? [29.04 s?]  
5 km:
       346.154 km/h (215.090 mph)  [52.00 s]  
5 Miles:
       345.106 km/h (214.439 mph)? [83.94 s?] 
10 km:
       341.621 km/h (212.273 mph)  [105.38s] 
10 Miles:
       340.903 km/h (211.827 mph)  [169.95 s]

Rosemeyer continued his record hunt with the 4.9 litre car, taking four flying start records on distances between 5 km and 10 Miles. Later in the afternoon after the car had recieved a new rear axle ratio, he took the car out on a set of standing start runs to take his last two new class records of the Recordwoche. Rosemeyer now held three world records and 16 class records. (Note 23)






CLASS B
MERCEDES-BENZ 5.6L
28 October 1937, Frankfurt-Darmstadt

Driver: Caracciola

Mercedes-Benz was back with a rebuilt car on Thursday for a further attempt. The nose was closer to the ground and the car had been fitted with a flat bottom to cure the tendency to lift. In the morning the weather was foggy but by 10 a.m. it was clear enough for Caracciola to have a try on the flying 1 km and 1 Mile with the DAB engined steamliner. Caracciola managed to achieve 397 km/h but the driver complaned on lack of grip for the rear wheels. The rear of the car was ballasted with lead and on the next attempt Caracciola just failed to reach 400 km/h. Then he made an attempt on the standing km and Mile records with an open car. But these attempts also failed, Caracciola only reaching 176 km/h, the engine clearly misfiring. In the evening Mercedes-Benz announced that they were aborting any further attempts making the Recordwoche a total catastrophe for the team.




CLASS A
THUNDERBOLT 73L
19 November 1937, Bonneville (USA)

Driver: Eyston
1 km:
       502.442 km/h (312.203 mph) [7.165 s]  Total World Record   
1 Mile:
       501.180 km/h (311.419 mph) [11.56 s]  World Record 

Eyston's "Thunderbolt", designed by the French couch-builder Jean Andreu, and built at the Bean works, Tipton, Staffordshire, used two of the supercharged 36.5 litre Rolls Royce engines, also installed in Campbell's Bluebird, giving a total output of 4700 bhp. The 8 wheeled (double rear wheels) vehicle weighted 7 tons.
Eyston made his first run on 7.32 s (491.8 km/h) but with a return run of 7.01 s (513.6 km/h) he managed to become the first man to go faster than 500 km/h on land. (Note 24)




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CLASS B
MERCEDES-BENZ
28 January 1938, Frankfurt-Darmstadt (D)

Driver: Caracciola

1 km:
       432.692 km/h  268.863 mph  [8.32 s] 
1 Mile:
       432.361 km/h  268.657 mph  [13.40 s] 

After their disastrous lack of results at the "Rekordwoche" Mercedes-Benz made arrangments for a new attempt with a revised car in January 1938. The nose and the rear end of the car had been rebuilt after wind tunnel experiments and the car was cooled by ice in a closed system.
At 8 a.m. on 28 January Caracciola took off for his first run, making the flying km in 8.40 seconds and the flying mile in 13.42 seconds. His return run went even faster (8.24 s & 13.38 s) giving Caracciola the B class records for both the flying kilometer and the flying mile. Caracciola's times are to this day the fastest ever made by a car on a normal road. (Note 25)





CLASS B
AUTO UNION 6.5L
28 January 1938, Frankfurt-Darmstadt (D)

Driver: Rosemeyer
1 km 
       (429.594 km/h/266.938 mph one way) [8.38 s]
1 Mile 
        Fatal crash

After hearing that Mercedes was having an attempt Auto Union asked to be allowed to defend their record. Eberan-Eberhorst designed a totally new, revolutional bodywork. Completed with panels that came close to the ground and channelled the air creating a vacuum, this was in fact the first ground effect car, built almost 40 years before the Lotus 78. An attempt on 27 January was aborted due to bad weather.
On the 28th after Caracciola's record runs it was Rosemeyer's turn to try to re-take his records. After a test run where he reached 429 km/h Rosemeyer started his record attempt at 10.40 a.m. Having passed the kilometer point the car continued on the flying mile, suddenly went out on the grass, went sideways, rolled and disintegated, killing the driver. Rosemeyer's time on his first run had been 8.38 seconds on the kilometer, 0.02 seconds faster than Caracciola's. (Note 26)
Click here for analysis of the event.





CLASS A
THUNDERBOLT 73L
27 August 1938, Bonneville (USA)

Driver: Eyston
1 km:
       555.556 km/h (345.206 mph)  [6.48 s]  World Record        
1 Mile:
       556.011 km/h (345.489 mph)  [10.42 s] Total World Record  

In autumn 1938 there were two British contenders ready for the total land speed record. First out was Eyston in his rebuilt "Thunderbolt" that now featured a new nose and a closed cockpit. On a run on 24th August Eyston made an astonishing time of 6.44 s only to have a timing failure on his rerun, probably because of the low contrast between the car and the desert salt. For his next attempt Eyston painted the car matt black with yellow markings and that time nothing went wrong, Eyston bettering his old record with over 50 km/h. (Note 27)




CLASS A
RAILTON 26.9L
15 September 1938, Bonneville (USA)

Driver: Cobb
1 km:
       563.380 km/h  (350.068 mph)  [6.39 s]  World Record         
1 Mile:
       563.583 km/h  (350.195 mph)  [10.28 s] Total World Record  
On 15 September Cobb took his streamlined Railton designed car through the flying mile on times of 10.19 and 10.37 seconds for an average that was 7.6 km/h faster than Eyston's less than three weeks old record. (Note 28)




CLASS A
THUNDERBOLT 73L
16 September 1938, Bonneville (USA)

Driver: Eyston
1 km:
       575.080 km/h (357.338 mph)  [6.26 s]   World Record   
1 Mile:
       575.336 km/h (357.498 mph)  [10.07 s]  Total World Record 
Cobb was to hold his record for less than 24 hours as Eyston went out to make a new attempt on 16th, going almost 12 km/h faster than his friendly rival to re-take the record. (Note 29)





CLASS D
Multi Union - Alfa Romeo 3L
20 October 1938, Brooklands (GB)

Driver: Staniland
5 km:
       224.5 km/h  (139.5 mph)          
5 Miles:
       225.1 km/h  (139.9 mph)    
10 km:
       224.7 km/h  (139.6 mph)   
10 Miles:
       223.5 km/h  (138.9 mph)   



1 9 3 9





CLASS D
MERCEDES-BENZ 3L
8 February 1939, Dessau (D)

Driver: Caracciola
1 km Standing Start:
       175.097 km/h (108.800 mph)  [20.56 s] 
1 Mile Standing Start:
       204.578 km/h (127.119 mph)  [28.32 s] 
For the standing start D class records Mercedes-Benz built a car based on the 1938 GP chassis with fully enclosed wheels and the radiator replaced by internal ice cooling. After initial tests by Lang the team took the car to Dessau where a 10 km section of the highway had been specially prepared for record attempts. The central grass strip had been filled out, making the available road 27 meters wide. However Caracciola soon learned to avoid using the dirty mid section. On 8 February Caracciola made two new D class standing start records.(Note 30)




CLASS D
MERCEDES-BENZ 3L
9 February 1939, Dessau (D)

Driver: Caracciola
1 km:
       398.230 km/h (247.449 mph)  [9.04 s] 
1 Mile:
       399.561 km/h (248.276 mph)  [14.50 s] 
The next day Caracciola used the record streamliner, now equipped with a 3 litre engine, to take the D class
1 km and 1 Mile flying start records. (Note 31)





CLASS D
MERCEDES-BENZ 3L
14 February 1939, Dessau (D)

Driver: Caracciola
1 km Standing Start:
       177.427 km/h (110.248 mph)  [20.29 s] 
Still not satisfied, Mercedes-Benz returned to Dessau a few days later to another try on the 1 km standing start. This time Caracciola managed to raise the record another 2.3 km/h. This was to be the last prewar German record run. (Note 32)




CLASS A
RAILTON 26.9L
22 August 1939, Bonneville (USA)

Driver: Cobb
1 km:
       595.041 km/h (369.742 mph) [6.05 s]  Total World Record 
1 Mile:
       592.094 km/h (367.910 mph) [9.785 s] World Record 

One year after his shortlived record run Cobb was back at Bonneville and made two runs in ideal conditions for an average of over 595 km/h possibly lifting the land speed record beyond the reach from the yet to be seen Mercedes T80. This time Cobb's record would stand for over 12 years. (Note 33)



1 9 4 0





CLASS A
MERCEDES-BENZ T80 44.5L
January ? 1940, Dessau (D)

Driver: Stuck Hans Stuck's pet project was to take the land speed record and he convinced Mercedes-Benz to build a car for the attempt. The Germans were handicapped by the fact that for political reasons the record had to be broken on German soil. Porsche aimed first at 550 km/h but after Eyston's and Cobb's runs the aim was raised to 600km/h. It was predicted that the first appearence of the T80 would be on the 1940 "Rekordwoche". However, for obvious reasons the 1940 "Rekordwoche" was never held and the futuristic Porsche designed car was never to be raced.



FOOTNOTES:
    Prime speed sources used are:
    
    BEINHORN Elly   - Bernd Rosenmeyer - Mein Mann der Rennfahrer 
    BLIGHT Anthony  - The French Sports Car revolution
    FLETCHER Rivers - Mostly Motor Racing
    HOLTHUSEN Peter - The Fastest men on Earth
    KIRCHBERG Peter - Grand-Prix-Report Auto Union 1934 - 1939
    LUDWIGSEN Karl  - Mercedes-Benz Quicksilver Century
    NIXON Chris     - Racing the Silver Arrows 
    NOBLE Richard   - Thrust
                      L'Actualité Automobile (1934) - with thanks to J-M Gigleaux  
    
    1:
      Times computed from speeds given by Kirchberg
    
    2:
      Speeds, times and lenghts given by L'Actualité Automobile/J-M Gigleaux 
      (and Blight, 48h & 10000 km only). Third decimal corrected in some cases. 
      Speed and length for 48 h record did not fit together, the probable 
      correct result is shown. 
      
    3:
      Times computed from speeds given by Fletcher.
     
    4:
      Times computed from speeds given by Fletcher.
     
    5:
      Times computed from speeds given by Nixon.
    
    6:
      Times computed from speeds given by Nixon
    
    7:
      Time computed from speed given by Kirchberg. 
    
    8:
      Times given by Kirchberg.
    
    9:
      Times according to Holthusen. Nixon gives the top speed (445.49 km/h) for 1 km 
      distance instead corresponding to about 8.08 seconds, but that is probably a mixup 
      with the 1 Mile speed.
      Noble gives 276.820 mph corresponding closely to 13.005 s (276.817 mph).
    
    10:
      Speeds computed from times that comes closest to 
      Nixon's speeds of 321.41 km/h (199.76 mph) and  323.06 km/h (200.79 mph).  
    
    11:
      Times according to Holthusen and Noble. Again Nixon gives the record distance as 1 km
      instead of 1 Mile (484.53 km/h). 7.425 s corresponds to 484.848 km/h (301.271 mph)
      coming closest to Nixon's time.
      Holthusen gives the times for the two runs as 11.63 s and 12.08 s but that would give 
      an average of 11.855 (488.708 km/h 303.669 mph) instead of the given average of 
      11.955 s.
    
    12:
      Speed computed from time given by Nixon. 
      Kirchberg gives  312.423 km/h not corresponding to any exact time.
    
    13:
      Speeds computed from times given by Nixon. 
      Kirchberg gives speeds that are close to Nixon's but don't correspond
      to any times.
    
    14:
      Times computed from speeds given by Nixon/Ludvigsen   
    
    15:
      Times computed from speeds given by Beinhorn/Ludvigsen/Nixon
      Note that Nixon's mph speed for 10 Miles is wrong.    
    
    16:
      1 Mile time computed from Kirchberg's 201.1 km/h. 
      Nixon gives 201.07 km/h (124.79 mph) for the Mile but those speeds don't 
      correspond exactly to any time. 
      Nixon gives 170.95 km/h (106.25 mph) for the kilometer and Kirchberg gives 
      170.9 km/h.
    
    17:
      All times follow the signed protocol from that day shown in Kirchberg's book. 
      1 km:
         A time of 9.25 s corresponding to 389.189 km/h (241.831 mph) would come closer to 
         Nixon's 389.20 km/h (241.84 mph)    
      1 M: 
         Nixon's speeds of 389.60 km/h (242.09 mph) corresponds to 14.87 s 
      10 M: 
         Nixon gives a speed of 360.30 km/h (233.89 mph, should be 223.89 mph) corresponding
         to times of 2:40.80 and 2:40.79.
     
    18:
      Times computed from speeds given by Nixon. Note that Nixon gives 206.86 mph instead of
      the correct 207.86 mph on the 10 km.     
    
    19:
      Times according to Beinhorn. Note that Nixon gives the inexact time of 14.2 s  
       
    
    20: 
      Times computed from speeds given by Beinhorn.
      1 km:       
         Beinhorn gives 188.697 instead of 188.679 km/h
      1 M: 
         Nixon gives a time corresponding to 26.62 s = 217.642 km/h (135.237 mph)   
    
    21:
      Times computed from speeds given by Beinhorn. 
    
    22:
      Kirchberg gives a speed of 223.1 km/h. Beinhorn 223.2 km/h and
      Nixon  224.45 km/h (139.50 mph)
    
    23: 
      Times computed from speeds given by Nixon and Beinhorn. 
      1 M:
         Beinhorn gives 201.6 km/h corresponding to 28.74 s = 201.558 km/h (125.261 mph)
      5 M:
         Beinhorn gives 346.2 km/h corresponding to 83.67 s = 346.220 km/h (215.131 mph)
    
    24: 
      Times according to Holthusen. Nixon gives 502.97 km/h/312.60 mph not corresponding
      to any conceivable time. 
    
    25: 
      No doubts about the times. See e.g. Kirchberg
    
    26: 
      No doubts about the times. See e.g. Kirchberg
    
    27: 
      Times according to Holthusen.  Nixon again gives a 1 km distance for the record. His 
      km/h and mph speeds doesn't correspond to each other.
      The appearance of the circle and arrow is speculation as I don't have access to any 
      pictures.
    
    28:
      Times according to Holthusen. Once more Nixon (563.47 km/h /350.20 mph) gives the 
      distance as 1 km.
    
    29: 
      Times according to Holthusen. Nixon's mph speed is correct but the distance of 1 km
      not.
    
    30: 
      Times computed from speeds given by Nixon/Ludvigsen
    
    31: 
      Times computed from speeds given by Nixon/Ludvigsen
    
    32: 
      Time computed from speeds given by Nixon/Ludvigsen
    
    33: 
      Times according to Holthusen. Nixon have the distance and mph speed right but the 
      km/h speed is as usual inexact.
           
    



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© 2011 Leif Snellman - Last updated: 10.08.2012