Motorsport

Electric land speed record: What does it feel like to drive at 370 mph?

By Henry Young

Published 12:17 PM ET, Fri February 5, 2016
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Automobile company Venturi is spearheading the charge to break the electric land speed record at the Utah salt flats. It hopes the technology will have applications not just in the sport of Formula E, but also for road cars of the future. © Venturi
Roger Schroer has been piloting the Venturi land speed vehicles for several years now.
So what's it like to drive at 372 mph (600 kph)? "He is a quiet man, but he likes how it feels" says Venturi's lead project engineer Delphine Biscaye, of Schroer's experience.
© Venturi
Biscaye added: "It seems very easy from the way he talks with other drivers -- compared to say Formula E -- because his job is just to go straight." © Venturi
But of course, straight needn't mean straightforward, elaborates Biscaye: "At the same time, it's very complicated. The speed and acceleration are so extreme, and there's intense vibrations in the wheels." © Venturi
"You have no real distance reference," says Biscaye of the challenge the salt flats offer. "Just the markers on the side of the road indicating how many miles have past, and a mountain at the end." GEORGE FREY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A parachute is required to stop the Venturi VBB-3. "The road is prepared, but you always have some bumps," says Biscaye. "The driver has to go every morning -- sometimes twice, three times a day -- and see the track, and see where he needs to go to take the best trajectory. It seems very simple, but it's incredibly tricky." © Venturi
"The previous car was under 3,000 kilograms, and now we are maybe even above 3,500kg," says Biscaye. "This new one is a four- wheel drive, whereas the previous one was only front wheel.
"It's also much more powerful: 3,000 brake horsepower -- huge!"
© Venturi
As Venturi seeks to break the electric land speed record, the VBB-3 is nowhere near the overall record, set by the rocket-powered Thrust SSC -- driven by Andy Green in 1997 -- which reached a speed of 763.035 mph (1,227.985 kph). Getty Images/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
And the Bloodhoud SSC7 is bidding to reach a speed of 1,000 mph -- that's 1,609 kph -- when it takes to South Africa's Hakskeen Pan in 2017. Courtesy Bloodhound Project
This supersonic car mixes automobile and aircraft technology. It's powered by a jet engine and a rocket together with a petrol engine auxiliary power unit. NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The Bloodhound weighs 7.5 tonnes. stefan marjoram/flock and siemens
Speedy pursuits have always thrown up outlandishly-shaped vehicles. Donald Campbell's famed Bluebirds attempted to break the land speed record on several occasions. The Bluebird CN7 is shown here during testing at Goodwood Motor Circuit, on July 18 1960. Campbell is the only man to break land speed and water speed records in the same year. Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
For now, all eyes are on the Venturi VBB-3. "People everywhere see the importance of this vehicle for research and the development of electric vehicles," says Biscaye. © Venturi