What’s Cool About the Record That Star Wars’ Idris Elba Broke in a Bentley?
Yesterday British actor Idris Elba broke a ninety year old speed record on a British beach in a very modern Bentley GT3…and it got us thinking.
A 90 year old record that was beaten at just 180 mph? That’s awfully slow—until you realize that it was set on a stretch of cold, dark, beach sand in Wales.
The beach is Pendine Sands, a seven mile, ruler-straight beach now owned and operated by the Ministry of Defense* but beloved by speed demons for more than 100 years. This stretch of sand has seen many hot rod and speed attempts, but apparently the Ministry of Defense has also used it as a bombing range for decades. Signage warning of unexploded ordinance is still displayed to this day, which makes the size of Elba’s record a bit more substantial.
The last land-speed record set at Pendine in an automobile and the one Bentley and Elba were attempting to break was originally set by Malcolm Campbell in 1927. Campbell was a classic English gearhead of the 19th century, starting on motorbikes and later moving to cars. Campbell set quite a few land-speed records, most notably in the UK the very one that stood until yesterday at Pendine Sands.
In 1927, the vehicle at Campbell’s disposal was known innocuously as, ‘Blue Bird’, a 500 horsepower V12 beast of a car that topped out at over 200 mph well before modern safety technology existed. In fact, the Napier-Lion engine used in the car was from an aircraft, as car engines at the time didn’t have the requisite horsepower to push that much air around.
However, a small note about that record-breaking day in 1927 makes Elba’s record slightly less impressive (never mind the differences in the cars). According to the book The Land Speed Record, the Blue Bird actually hit 195 mph that day on a single run, but in order for the record to be verified, the speed was calculated on a two run average—something Campbell was unable to do.
In those years, the need for ever greater land speed records made both the Pendine Sands and the Blue Bird obsolete in less than a year. The pursuit led participants to Daytona Beach and finally to the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats, where extreme land speed records are still being attempted.
Today, both Bentley and Elba should be commended. A British driver in a British GT car tackling a 90 year old sand-based speed record…on an ammunition-littered beach in Wales? That’s pretty great—and one for the books.
*The Brits certainly do government titles better than us Yanks, don’t they?
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