Pendine Sands, Wales - The British Home Of Former World Land Speed Records
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
What should a Formula 1 correspondent get up to on a free weekend prior to the start of the new Grand Prix season?
Answer of course: fit in a long promised road trip down to South West Wales despite the wintry weather to visit Pendine Sands, near Tenby - a place which has its own unique story in the history of world land speed records.
Pendine Sands is a seven mile long stretch of beach in Carmarthen Bay and back in the early 1900s the smooth, firm surface led to it being used for car and motorcycle racing.
Come the 1920s, it became clear that the location was the best place in the UK for land speed record attempts as traditional race circuits simply didn’t offer adequate facilities in terms of long straight stretches of track.
On September 25 1924 Malcom Campbell set a new world land speed record of 146.16mph on the Sands in his 350HP Sunbeam car Blue Bird. Over the following three years Campbell and Welshman John Godfrey Parry Thomas in his car Babs were to fight out their own personal battle to nudge the record higher.
After Campbell had subsequently exceeded 150mph, Parry Thomas got the better of him by achieving a new record of 171.02mph in April 1926. The following February Campbell then set the bar at 174.22mph in his second Blue Bird before his Welsh rival attempted to go even faster in Babs on March 3.
Sadly Parry-Jones crashed, with Babs rolling over at about 170mph and its driver was killed, aged just 42 - the first time that any driver had suffered fatal injuries attempting to break a world land speed record.
Following the accident Babs was buried in the sand dunes near the village of Pendine, but in 1969 an Engineering lecturer at Bangor Technical College called Own Wyn Owen was controversially given permission to excavate the car and he painstakingly restored it over the following 16 years. These days the new Babs is displayed each year during the summer months at the Museum of Speed in Pendine.
In June 2000 Pendine Sands again featured in the record books when Don Wales, the grandson of Malcolm Campbell and nephew of Donald Campbell, set the UK electric land speed record at 137mph in his Bluebird Electric 2 car.
The Ministry of Defence had used Pendine Sands during World War 2 to test weapons and this still continues today. However, in June 2013 land speed racing events were allowed to recommence there and they still continue, with competitors from around the world taking part.
It was cold and wet at Pendine Sands last weekend, but it was impossible not to gaze along the beach and feel the legacy of world land speed record heroes of yesteryear like Malcolm Campbell and J.G. Parry-Thomas in the air.
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Pendine Sands, Wales - The British Home Of Former World Land Speed Records, 6th March 2018, 14:20 PM