Insights with Rick Kelly: Dreaming of a World Record

V8 Supercars driver and columnist Rick Kelly has his sights firmly set on a jet-powered world record attempt.

Sitting by the pool in Darwin can prove to be a dangerous and expensive thing to do.

Back in 2003 I was relaxing in the sun waiting for our flight back to the Melbourne winter. Bored, I went down to the local bookstore and purchased the Guinness Book of World Records. I thought to myself that this looks like a bit of fun, I’d love to have a crack at one! How hard could it be?

I’ve always been massively into remote control toys, cars, boats and planes. The record for the world’s fastest remote control car took my interest, largely because it would also involve my love of jet turbines.

By the mid-2000s I was on my way, with the rules of the time stating that it had to be a scaled down version of the genuine article. My plan was to construct a 1:10 scale replica of the Thrust SSC, which still holds the world land speed record at 1227 km/h.

What goes up…

It was a fantastic project, I thought it would take a week, but in the end it took five years and 1,000 hours to build. It was something I was very proud of, I managed to build the thing from the ground up myself, even welding and machining up all of the double-A arm front wishbones in the front suspension.

However the initial record didn’t go so well. I was sort of pushed into running it a bit earlier than I was hoping and ready for, so I didn’t have time to test it properly.

We hit the Holden Proving Ground at Lang Lang, outside of Melbourne, and frankly it didn’t handle very well. The power of the twin jet turbines was simply too much, and the car squirted around in every direction bar straight.

The crash was pretty spectacular, but the desire to chase the record didn’t die there.

Going Again

If I find a bit of spare time, working in the shed on jet car mark two is an absolute love of mine.

Back when I had my first crack, the technology wasn’t as advanced as what it is now, so I had a lot of trouble trying to run gyros and just keep the car straight. But since then I’ve got all of the gear to rebuild the jet car, two all-new jet turbines, and thrust vectoring exhaust nozzles to help keep the car straight.

These turbines have about 50 pounds of thrust, so it’s got enough grunt to shoot the thing straight up in the air, so keeping it on the ground is going to be a challenge!

I’m really excited to get it going; basically everything on the car will be rebuilt and redesigned compared to the old one, so I will be able to have the two side-by-side during construction. It will be interesting to see the progression of the build.

The new car is a pretty cool piece of kit. It’s been a work in progress for a couple of years now, it’s about 1.4 metres long, and hopefully when we let it loose, it will be good for 250 km/h.

The Hunt for Speed

This time around I’ve sought a little help with the car construction.

Last year when I was in England for the GT Academy finals, I put off my flight home by a day. I caught two trains through Paris to the edge of France and a town called Strasbourg, hired a car and drove into the Black Forest in Germany to a tiny shed.

There I found a guy who makes incredible one-fifth scale F1 chassis, which is going to be the base for the suspension, and some other pieces of the car. I will also be able to use it as a donor for its hydraulic four wheel disc brakes, which are incredibly neat.

The new car has a big billet aluminium chassis plate, with a carbon fibre case that bolts on to the top of it.

All going well, the car will be put together through the remainder of the year to the stage where we can test it. Stay tuned for that!

Hopefully in a couple weeks’ time in Darwin there isn’t any spare time by the pool…

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Rick Kelly
Teams Nissan Motorsport
Article type Analysis