If you want to break a high-speed record, Bonneville is the place to be. Many a record has been smashed on the legendary salt flats in the US state of Utah. The Bonneville Speed Week is the logical choice – a 1964 Mini, perhaps not so. While the 970S boasts an iconic design, the aerodynamics of the legendary shape hinder any attempts to improve the car’s top speed. This can be particularly troublesome when the goal is to raise the bar for cars with engines with a capacity of less than 1,000 cc. Despite this, it could not have been an easier decision for a team from Nelson, New Zealand.
“I will only believe that we have broken the record when I see it in black and white,” said Mike Wilson after the first of two prescribed record attempts, from which the average was to be calculated. The printout ultimately showed 236 km/h – 26 more than the existing record. This figure was later to be revised to 251 km/h.
What nowadays can easily be achieved in modern sports cars on the world’s motorways was the result of two years of hard work for Wilson’s team of Kiwis. The team generated 100,000 dollars of sponsorship money in order to make the record attempt a reality. On top of that came all the meticulous, detailed engineering. Despite all the preparations and best-laid plans, the extreme heat in Utah caused problems for the 1,000 cc engine, which could only be solved with the assistance of local engineers – just in time for the legendary runs.
The 1964 Mini was driven by Nelson Hartley, brother of Formula driver Brendon Hartley. The problem with such a compact car is that the wheel base and track are hardly ideal for driving in a straight line at an average speed of 251 km/h. “This Mini was not designed to travel at more than 120 km/h,” said a grinning Hartley. “It starts getting serious at 240 to 250 km/h, when the car really starts moving from side to side."
The names Wilson and Hartley, and those of the other team members, now stand proudly in the record book at the Bonneville Speed Week. For ever? The legitimate successors to Burt Munro, who set speed records in an Indian Scout, are turning their attention to new projects. Maybe we will see the return of an iconic Mini at the “Race to the Clouds” at the legendary Pikes Peak …
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