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Sunday, September 26, 1999 Published at 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK


Blind land speed record broken

Steve Cunningham: "Breaking down barriers"

A bank worker has broken the world land speed record for a blind person.

Steve Cunningham, from Chacombe in Oxfordshire, broke the current record of 132.5 mph in a borrowed 70,000 Chrysler Viper, capable of 180mph.

The 36-year-old father-of-two reached a speed of 147mph at the disused Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire.

Mr Cunningham, who has been blind since the age of 12, was accompanied by a professional instructor in the passenger seat telling him which way to turn.

Challenging prejudice

He was watched by his wife Heather, 27, and his three-year-old guide dog Hughie.

Before making the attempt, he said he wanted to confound people's prejudices.

"It is not about breaking records, it is about breaking down barriers. It is easier to break a record than to break the conceptions about what people with a disability can do."

Mr Cunningham, who had been preparing for the attempt for more than 18 months. was prompted to make the attempt by friend and rally-driving instructor Peter Colmer Gwynne, 33.

Mr Gwynne perfecting the technique of telling Steve which way to turn the steering wheel via intercom - crucial when he reached his target speed of 150mph.

Money raised through the attempt will go to The British Blind Sports Association and the Blind Dogs for the Blind, which Mr Cunnigham will soon be joining as a full-time fundraiser.

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