Kiwi Mini breaks speed record

Last updated 11:35 17/08/2012

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A Nelson Mini is a now a major star at Bonneville, having smashed the land speed record in its class.

LATEST: But the crew was this morning still pushing to raise the bar even higher to break the magic 150mph (241kmh) mark.

The specially modified 1964 Morris Mini Cooper S broke the record overnight (NZ time) for the 1000cc class at Bonneville Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, scoring an average 146.6mph (235.9kmh).

''We've set a world record – that's solid; we're just trying to make it even better,'' a happy Project 64 team spokesman Mike Wilson said early today (NZ time), just hours after the record was set in the dry heat of Utah where the temperature had climbed to more than 30 degrees Celsius.

The previous record for the class was 210kmh.

The record was secured after averaging the speed from two runs on the same course and then passing a technical inspection.

The Mini hit 142.103mph (228.7kmh) on its first run and 151.087mph (243kmh) on the second, so the new record is 146.6mph.

Wilson said the tactic was to run for only several kilometres, accelerating quickly, then to shut down after the 4.8km markers to conserve the engine.

He said once the team knew the record was theirs, there was a ''lot of jumping up and down''.

They went there with the aim of cracking 150mph (241kmh), knowing the car could do it and were keen to make that official.

Mr Wilson said it was ''pretty nice'' lining up to achieve a personal best, knowing they had the record and everyone was a lot calmer.

The Mini was given another burst down the track and clocked 156mph (251kmh) but needed to do it again to have that speed officially recorded, but it packed a sad and refused to start for the repeat attempt.

''There are quite a few things we can rectify once the car has cooled down.

''We've got the top off the motor right now.

''The guys here love solving these sorts of problems.''

Wilson said the team was happy with the achievement, but they were not expecting a gold medal.

''I don't even think we get a trophy, but I think we get our name in a book.

''We'll get a pat on the back and come home happy.''

The racy Mini is the result of more than a year's work in a Nelson workshop. The more than $100,000 project has been supported by sponsors including Nelson businesses and Maersk shipping, which transported the car to the US and will bring it back later this year.

Wilson said the Project 64 mission seemed to have attracted a special following, helped by media attention and a 1300 per cent increase in traffic on its Facebook page.

He said most of the team would be back in New Zealand early next week, but the Mini would not be back until possibly December on the return sea passage.

The plan from now was to compile a book and possibly a documentary with all the film and photo footage, and then form a plan for how to tackle Bonneville again next year.

''We always thought we'd give it a go and then the car would go into the [WOW] museum.

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''But now we're thinking that maybe we'll come back next year.'

Yesterday, another New Zealand vehicle, a "Kiwified Corvette" from Timaru and driven by Craig Gilbert broke another speed record at Bonneville, but the team faces a nervous few days to see if it is ratified after a protest was lodged.

- The Nelson Mail

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