Last week I mentioned that aerodynamics has become very important in today’s
racing cars. I asked in what year did the first aerodynamic racer compete? The
clue: “twins”. It was the Stanley Steamer of 1906, built by the twins F.E and
F.O. Stanley, with a body designed to be aerodynamically more efficient than
cars had been up to that time. It was driven by Fred Marriot and set the
official Land Speed Record at 127 mph (203 km/h).
So to this week. An easy one - where were the window winders situated on the
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email
Stanley Steamer’s record
In the Autotrivia Quiz last week I had asked about an aerodynamic
racer which set records in 1906 and it was the Stanley Steamer driven by Fred
Marriott who left the figure at 203 km/h. Amazingly, that record still stands
today, but a British team has gone to America to try and grab the 100 year old
However, breaking the record set by the Stanley Brothers’ steam car is proving
to be difficult. After numerous technical problems, the British Steam Car team
successfully carried out its first test run on US soil last week. The team has
been working tirelessly to get the car ready for the record attempts to break
the century-old world land speed record for steam-powered vehicles.
The log from the challenger reads, “The team was in position by 7 a.m. ready for
their first run. Test Driver Don Wales was strapped into the 25 ft long car that
he has nicknamed ‘the lean, green, mean machine’ - because of the technical
issues the team has had to overcome. The goal was to replicate the test program
that took place in April at Thorney Island in the UK.
Marriott and the Stanley Steamer 1906
“Project Manager Matt Candy said, ‘We reached 77 mph over a very short distance
of just 1 km which was comparable to our tests at Thorney. We were due to do a
high speed return run but the gas rig had trouble refueling and so we had to
abort it. We will replace this gas pump tomorrow and resume the testing program.
The software has since confirmed that the vehicle produced more steam on the
test run than in the UK, a bypass valve was open for approximately 1/5 of the
test and the majority of the steam was wasted. This can be rectified, and
knowing that it’s not performing to its full capacity is really encouraging
news, as we can utilize the steam to generate more power than we thought we
“Despite the successful test run, the team has taken the decision to delay the
record attempt to the week commencing 17th August. Candy continued, ‘It’s
important that the technical issues with the support rigs are resolved before an
attempt is made, and these things can’t be rushed.’ In addition, the FIA
officials have to leave on the 4th August to attend Bonneville Speedweek.
However the FIA are free from the 17th August after they have carried out their
duties at Bonneville and can join the team at Edwards to calibrate and record
The British Steam Car Team hopes to achieve the official FIA Land Speed Record
for a steam-powered vehicle. The current official FIA record was set by
American, Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley steam car in 1906.
Some old books
I was rather chuffed the other day when David, one of the English
ex-pats dropped off some old books for me. These were small pocket books
which were printed by the Sunday Times in the UK in 1961, in a series of 20
books covering the motor car from Cugnot’s steam tractor of 1770 through to
1957. Each book cost two shillings and six pence!
The concept was good, and the information, though not extensive, still very
interesting and informative. For example, the first enclosed car was a Renault
built in 1899 and had a single cylinder De Dion Bouton engine with a maximum rev
limit of 1,500 RPM. Or how about the Invicta 4.5 liter Low Chassis Black Prince
of 1930? This was the car whose owners manual suggested the ordinary driver take
off in top gear as there was too much torque for him to handle in the lower
David brought me books 1-7 plus 19. Anybody got the others lying around
In a move that can only assist in resuscitating the Formula 1
series, Ferrari have asked Michael Schumacher to drive again for the
Scuderia. With Felipe Massa likely to be out for the rest of the season,
there was much conjecture as to who would fill the vacant seat for the rest
of the season’s seven Grands Prix. It had been expected that neither of the
two test drivers (Badoer and Gene) would be invited and many names were
being put forward, including Kubica (now that BMW have announced their
withdrawal at the end of the year) or even Alonso to jump ship from Renault
mid-year. However, it was Niki Lauda (an ex-Ferrari driver himself) who
suggested that the only driver up to the job was Michael Schumacher.
Last year’s champion, Lewis Hamilton has said, “Michael is one of the sport’s
greatest competitors and a legend in his own right and it would be great to
compete against him. The whole world will be watching his return to the cockpit
in Valencia and it will not only be fascinating to see how he readies himself
for his grand prix comeback but also an honor and a privilege to race against
him for the very first time. I wish him well.”
Hamilton is totally correct where he says the whole world will be watching, but
in some ways it is an enormous task that Schumacher has taken on. He has not
raced for two and a half years, so has to be rusty, as well as in questionable
fitness for F1.
Jenson Button, the current championship leader has also welcomed Schumacher back
to F1, but said, “In a way Ferrari are very lucky because they’ve someone
working in their team who can jump straight into the car and be competitive, and
Michael will be. It’s an interesting one, though, because if he wins people will
say they expected him to, and if he doesn’t, they will say he should not have
come back. So it’s a tough position for him to be in, although I’m happy he has
taken up the challenge. It’s very brave of him.”
In many ways this could be seen as a lose-lose situation for Schumacher but
knowing the type of man he is, he will indeed rise to the challenge and acquit
himself very well. Will we see the famous Schumacher leap once more?