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Who holds the "piston-engined" LSR?

October 2004 UPDATE
On 16 october 2004, during the SCTA World Finals, Tom Burkland driving the Burkland family streamliner took the AA/BFS record from Nolan White at 417.020, thus becoming the fastest man on earth driving a piston-engined vehicle.
All the comments below, written in 2002, as to who holds what, are still valid, as long as you substitute Tom Burkland's record to Nolan White's. I preferred to leave the older notes unchanged to keep Nolan White's memory alive, as his achievement was a most outstanding one, crowning a lifetime pursuit of the wheel-driven Land Speed Record.
This whole story will need re-writing as soon as Tom Burkland will have a chance to run for the FIA International record, which is well within reach of him and his car, given the right salt conditions.
Stay tuned!

October 2002 UPDATE
On 20 October 2002 Nolan White passed away in hospital from the consequences of a terrible accident he suffered three days earlier during the SCTA World Finals at Bonneville. Driving his famous Autopower streamliner, he was trying to beat Al Teague's FIA A/I/11 International record, the final goal of a 20 year battle between the two for the fastest speed on a conventionally engined vehicle. White had already become the fastest by SCTA/BNI rules at Speed Week in August 2002, but needed this further record to obtain International sanction. Fate denied him this final achievement, and in the most cruel way.
With Al Teague now retired from racing, the battle between him and Nolan White, which has provided a wealth of excitement on the salt for over two decades, ends somewhat "even", with Teague holding the FIA record and White the SCTA/BNI version. This situation will only be changed when some other racer will be able to take both records.
The text below was written right after White's exploit at Speed Week 2002 and still reflects the situation as it stands to this date, so I left it unchanged.

On 12 August 2002 Nolan White, driving the Autopower streamliner, set a new AA/BFS speed record at 413.156 MPH during the SCTA/BNI sanctioned Speed Trials on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Twelve years ago, in 1990, White was the first hot-rodder ever to be clocked at over 400 mph in a SCTA or USFRA sanctioned meeting. He has now become the fastest record holder driving a piston-engined vehicle, under or SCTA/BNI/USFRA sanction, having set a record faster than Al Teague's now famous 1991 A/BFS record of 409.978 MPH (which still stands in the A class - this record was also sanctioned by the FIA).

As far as the (so-called) "wheel-driven land speed record", White's exploit does not change anything, since Don Vesco's Turbinator pushed it to 458.440 MPH (on the flying mile) at the Bonneville World Finals in October 2001, with a record sanctioned by both the FIA and the BNI. (For a survey of the situation before Vesco's record, see "Who holds the wheel-driven LSR?", where you will also find an explanations of why I use the expression "so-called").

For those who do not just despise thrust vehicles as non-automobiles, but also dislike turbine-powered vehicles ("they have nothing to do with real cars" is the typical quote), and only want to hear about "real cars" (meaning piston-engined), things are now (again) a bit complicate...
Let's see why.

White's record was not sanctioned by the FIA (FIA sanction was not available at Speed Week). As far as the FIA is concerned, Al Teague still holds the record for over 8 Liter, blown piston-engined vehicles and that is the fastest record held by a piston-engined vehicle.
White's record on the flying mile, sanctioned by SCTA/BNI, is of course faster. So, fine, White's is the fastest "real automobile", right?
Yes. And No.
Things are (almost) never so clear and easy.
White's Autopower is the fastest if you accept that SCTA/BNI and FIA rules are equivalent. But in fact, they are not.
It is true that this year Speed Week records were the average of two runs in opposite directions, thus eliminating one of the three main differencies that make the FIA rules more restrictive and difficult to comply with (in the past years, due to the poor condition of the salt, which did not allow the use of a long enough course, SCTA/BNI records were the average of two runs in the same direction). The two other differencies are still there, though: first, the FIA requires the return run to be completed within one hour (with SCTA/BNI rules, return runs are done the next morning, thus allowing much more time for checking and eventually repairing); and second, for the FIA the measured mile must be strictly the same "phisical" mile, while for SCTA/BNI the "relative" mile counts (i.e. it can be a different stretch of land, as long as it is a mile long).
You may not care about these differencies, but nevertheless they exist, and they make a FIA International record somewhat more difficult to set and it is impossible to compare the two records directly.
It is up to you to make your own judgement.

But, before you decide, let me give you something more to consider.
When Al Teague set the FIA (and SCTA/BNI) flying mile record, in 1991, in the same run he also set a flying kilo FIA International record. The speed on the kilo was 425.05 MPH...
This still is the fastest record ever set by a piston-engined automobile, under any sanction, on any distance.
So, who's the fastest??

An update of "who holds what?"
(as of 12 August 2002)

Don Vesco undisputedly holds the (so-called) "wheel-driven" land speed record.
As to a (so-to-call-it) "piston-engined" land speed record:

The Facts

The possible consequences

(If you want to check my statements, you can find rules and records at the FIA and SCTA/BNI web sites.)

© Ugo Fadini 2002
(you are welcome to use the contents of this article but you must acknowledge the source)

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