Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Kiwis smash world speed record... in a Mini

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Following in the footsteps of legendary New Zealander Burt Munro, a team of Kiwis have smashed a world speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and confirmed their car as "the world's fastest Mini''.

They were told they didn't have a hope of even passing the tech inspection - let alone breaking the record - but their do-it-yourself attitude saw their 1964 Mini Cooper S reach an average speed of 235.9km/h.

"We had people telling us that a short car at that sort of speed would spin and all those sorts of things, but it just went beautifully - tracked down the line and had a huge amount of power,'' said Project'64 spokesman Mike Wilson.

To confirm them as the world record-holders, the Mini had to complete the feat twice. They recorded 229km/h on their first run a week ago, and 243km/h on their second on Saturday (NZT).

The previous world land speed record for a production car under 1000cc is 205km/h and the fastest time (unofficially) recorded by a mini was 196km/h.

"One of the famous things that Burt Munro said was that anyone can go out and buy a new bike and go fast, but it's much more interesting and much more of a challenge to take something old and go fast, so that's why we used a 48-year-old Mini,'' said Mr Wilson, the team's photographer.

In 1962, at the age of 63, Mr Munro famously set off for Bonneville with the Indian Scout motorcycle he'd bought in 1920, immortalised in the film The World's Fastest Indian. His 1967 speed of 295km/h still stands today as the world speed record for under 1000cc motorbikes with a streamliner.

"Burt Munro was a definite inspiration and a lot of decisions about the car were based on that as well,'' Mr Wilson said.

"Everyone was very resourceful and I guess it's that typical Kiwi thing of not letting anything stop us. As far as we know this is now the world's fastest Mini''

After they broke the record, the team had the opportunity to try to go even faster, and they did, reaching 252km/h.

However, for the speed to officially register, the car had to repeat its performance and they had technical difficulties before their second run.

"The only minor disappointment is we know the car can go faster than the record that we've set,'' Mr Wilson said.

The team was considering returning to Bonneville to try to push their Mini even further.

- APNZ

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