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.
* * *
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
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)