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Thursday, October 29, 1998 Published at 18:31 GMT


Bomb clips Bluebird's wings

Don Wales and Bluebird Electric: Going nowhere fast

An attempt on the electric car world land speed record has been delayed by a series of setbacks including the discovery of a small bomb on the beach.

Don Wales: Something was on the beach that should not have been there
The explosive device was found on a stretch of the beach at Pendine Sands in South Wales, that lies within a Ministry of Defence testing range.

However, after the bomb was removed by MoD explosive experts, the Bluebird Electric team found the surface of the beach had still not dried out enough after bad weather on Friday.

[ image: Don Wales: Still hopeful]
Don Wales: Still hopeful
Driver Donald Wales eventually abandoned all hopes of driving on the beach on Saturday when the tide started coming in.

Mr Wales, grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell and nephew of Donald Campbell - both of whom were holders of the record during their time - is now hoping conditions will be favourable on Sunday.

"We have had some unfortunate things happen today but we have learnt from our mistakes and we are optimistic about the record bid tomorrow," he said.

Matthew Richards: "The troubles didn't seem to bother the sightseers"
Pendine Sands is the scene of many a Campbell record.

However, Mr Wales is breaking with family tradition by going for a record in a more environmentally friendly vehicle.

Mr Wales said: "The first and foremost reason for choosing an electric car was my six-year-old son Joseph, who is an asthmatic.

"I believe the electric car does have a future and I hope the Bluebird Electric will be a positive step for the environment."

Driving history

The 400,000 car is being heralded as a major step forward in technology and design.

[ image:  ]
Engineers at Sheffield University have developed two electric motors placed behind the rear wheels, which spin at 20,000 revolutions per minute - faster than a Formula One engine.

Bluebird Electric must also accommodate 48 12-volt batteries, originally designed for the space shuttle, which have been installed around its cockpit.

All this is just as well. The current electric world land speed record is 215.265mph, set last year by Eric Luebben in Lightening Rod.

Bluebird Electric has so far increased the current British record by 10mph, with an average speed of 116.41mph over two miles.

Moving legends

[ image: Sir Malcolm Campbell: Once the fastest man alive]
Sir Malcolm Campbell: Once the fastest man alive
Mr Wales has a hard act to follow. The first family world land speed record to be broken was by Sir Malcolm in 1924 in the V12 Sunbeam Bluebird at an average speed of 146.163mph.

This record was the first of three he set at Pendine Sands.

The last was in 1927, before Sir Malcolm crossed the Atlantic to Daytona, and eventually took his overall record to 276.82mph in 1935.

Between him and his son, they brought home more than 20 speed records.

Donald Campbell is still the only person to have broken both land and water records in the same year - 1964.

But his success was cut short when he was killed in 1967 while attempting to break the 300mph barrier on water at Coniston in a Bluebird boat.

[ image: Donald Campbell: Followed in father's footsteps]
Donald Campbell: Followed in father's footsteps
It is 70 years since the Bluebird broke its first world land speed record, and 100 years since the first record was set in an electric car - at 39mph.

An achievement this weekend would be a dream come true for Mr Wales.

"It is a hell of a privilege and I feel honoured to be part of such a family and to be driving a Bluebird.

"One more record for us would be wonderful."

If it does not happen this time, Mr Wales says - funds permitting - he will keep on trying.

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