Fastest blind man in the world

I had the wonderful opportunity earlier in the week to accompany Hein Wagner to Upington where he broke the world land speed record for a blind driver. I’ll be shooting Hein and Melindi’s wedding later this month. My regular readers will remember their Film Noir inspired engagement shoot from a while back.

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Below is the press release written by Ray Wakefield:

07 October 2009

Blind man clocks 200 mph – and gets a ticket.

Upington. South Africa.

At first light on Tuesday morning, Hein Wagner, a Blind-from-birth Capetonian, drove into the record books when he set a new World Land Speed Record for a Blind Driver at 322.50 kph (200.393 mph) on the 5.5 km long runway at Upington International Airport in the Northern Cape Province.

Alongside him sat his sighted navigator, Ray Wakefield, a retired Engineer from Port Elizabeth, himself a World Record contender in his own right.

Wagner was also first to break the 150 mph barrier when he clocked 242.21kph (150.5 mph) over a flying kilometre in a 4.5 litre Maserati in Mafikeng in September 2005, also navigated by Wakefield.

Wakefield explained “ After our previous success we often spoke of going for the next big milestone, 200 mph, but a finding a suitable car was always the problem. A couple of months ago we learned that Mike Newman, a blind bank employee from Sale in England, was going to America to try to achieve his long held ambition to be the first to 200 mph, and we decided to pull out all of the stops to get the accolade first. After trying just about every conceivable manufacturer in South Africa, well known Johannesburg businessman and car enthusiast ‘Lolly’ Jackson, offered to loan us his AMG Mercedes 65SL Black Series. This twin turbocharged car, with 500 kW (670 bhp) on tap, was thought to be capable of doing the job, and after a couple of shake down runs on the airport on Monday, we went for the record just after dawn on Tuesday when the air was still cool. Our first two of runs gave us figures tantalisingly close to 200, but thanks to the owner doing a bit of manipulation of his beast’s power plant (and probably ruining his converter, as well as his warranty) I parked Hein with our back wheels almost against the grass, buckled ourselves in, and gave him the go-ahead. Using a code developed during the run up to our previous record attempt, we were able to stay on the straight and narrow for consecutive runs in each direction that confirmed our average to be just over the ‘double ton’.”
“We might have gone a bit quicker, but it was already getting hot and we had achieved our aim. Every one remembers the first team to conquer Everest, but no one can tell you who was second up, and to us 200 mph is the blind speed enthusiasts Everest.”

To round the morning off, a standing quarter mile was run. The local traffic police department set up their laser equipment at the end of this and recorded Hein’s terminal velocity at 204 kph. “They then gave him a speeding ticket for exceeding the 120 kph limit, and in view of his serious violation, threatened to impound the car and lock him up for life, but when Hein told them in all honesty that he hadn’t seen any speed limit signs, they rescinded and joined us for a celebratory glass of champagne instead”.



Hein en Melindi in the chartered plane to Upington 

Lolly Jackson preparing to take the Merc out for a test run 

Hein exploring the car 


Derek Watts interview Lolly for Carte Blanche 

Practise runs 

Ray Wakefield – Navigator


Hein bringing the Merc to a stop – note the red hot discs

Sunrise on the morning of the attempt


The world record run at 322.5 kph (200.393 mph)

Hein and Ray – Getting the official speed from the data recorder


As a bonus Hein got to meet Andy Green (The fastest man in the world @ 1228 kph)

melindi - Sybrand! I just explained the photos to Hein and we are both in tears. You have outdone yourself! Thank you for being a part of our adventure and capturing every single emotion. xxx

Reinhart Schwendinger - Dear Hein, Ray and Melindi.

I send you my love and congratulations on the success of this major feat! My prayer is that the publicity generated for the Vision Trust Fund is rewarded in massive dividends; dividends concruent with the risk that you put yourself through, all done to benefit others.

Now, please promise me that you will now only do that kinda of speed in something with wings 🙂

Your friend.

Cobus - The Stig has competition

Ed Gordon - Congratulations again to Hein. These pictures are great and they capture the essence of the event. It was really great to be a small part of it.

Ronnie - Such incredible photographs! I could feel the emotion in every single one, even from that beautiful car. It’s awesome! You’re awesome! Next big day coming up for you and Melindi.

Gavin Withers - Hey Sybrand, nicely captured. Stunning images. Well done

Valerie - I’m stunned, amazed and completely impressed! Hein – you certainly know no limits! Congratulations again & again! The fotos are beautifully powerful, as is this incredible accomplishment.

Harry Charlton - Brilliant!!! You are a remarkable man and it is an honour to know you. Time you came to visit Australia.

Jeanette - wow! What an amazing experience taking those photos must’ve been, let alone the driving experience for Hein. Fabulous shots!

Natasha Whiteley - what an awesome adventure.
fantastic captures!

Christine Meintjes - What amazing story! The shots are fab too! Love the movement shot you got with the car! Super nice!

Mitch Wong Ho - Great job in capturing record-breaking history!

Alwyn - Congrats, you make all of us very proud.

Ray Wakefield - Sybrand, what stunning pictures!As someone said before, you really captured the mood of the whole event. A super reminder of a truly great and enjoyable couple of days. My old Mazda will never feel the same.

Yeah, we nailed the bastard – for the second time.

Could I please use some of your shots on my website, with appropriate acknowledgement to yourself. My very humble efforts just do not stand up against the work of a skilled operator such as you.
My best regards,


Dries Schreuder - Well done Hein, look forward to your wedding at Sea trader, hoop daar is nog adrenalien om te pomp. Dries

Frans Swanepoel - Breathtaking shots – awesome story – Well done once again!

Alison - Congratulations Hein and Dad but please don’t try this again – I don’t think my nerves could take it. Lokks like you all had a fantastic time. Well done!

Annemari - Genade, die fotos is uitstekend!

Feel the force! - Mercedes Benz SLK World Forum - […] the force!…world_492.html What a wonderful […]

Willem Basson - Well done Hein – jou Bliksem – great, great, great – ek het geweet jy gaan dit maak en sommer goed “stof” in daai “Pom” se oe ry – so what’s next – gelukkig vir Melindi wat op van die foto’s – anders was dit so “boring” om net na jou en die great AMG te kyk – looooop nou met die troue – “Wimpie”

Keith Watson - Congratulations Hein!!!
Well done and a great story!!!

Frank Filipponio - Hein,
Congratulations on the record run. I wrote the post for Autoblog and was gobsmacked by your bravery and determination. Best of luck with all of your future endeavors, including that upcoming flight! Keep on inspiring!

Desmond Louw - Stunning photos, it tells the story like it should, great eye!

Chris - Awesome stuff Sybrand. Such emotion and passion captured.

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Anton Welman - Hein…ek het glad nie getwyfel dat jy dit sou regkry nie…Fantasties en wat n voorreg om jou te ken.Stunning fotos, Sybrand..Die swart en wit sit net so ietsie ekstra in n geskiedkundige perspektief, WELL DONE!!

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Greta - I have had the pleasure of meeting this amazing man and his new wife, just yesterday!!!
What a fantastic down to earth person he is,and married to an just as amazing woman!!
I am Christelle and Sven’s aunt, if you read this Melindie!!!

Vanessa Bester - WOW! Sybrand die fotos is absoluut fanasties! Stunning!

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