Land Speed Racing

Update by Tim Suddard to the Triumph Spitfire (Ro-Spit) project car
Jun 24, 2002

We knew we were in for a different kind of experience when we signed up to race with the East Coast Timing Association, which specializes in Land Speed Racing-the type of racing that made the Bonneville Salt Flats famous. We started to realize just how different the event in Maxton, North Carolina, was going to be when we called for directions.

We had driven to Maxton to run our Ro-Spit project car at ECTA’s March 23-24 event. We had been itching to see how fast the Ro-Spit was in a straight line; besides, we figured it would be a great way to reintroduce this amazing car to our readers.

Since we had been dealing with ECTA’s Keith Turk, we gave him a call on the cell phone: “Keith, we’re just coming into the town of Maxton, how do we find this place?” The high-strung Turk quickly replied, “Dude! Just go to the next exit, I’ll meet you there-you’ll never find this place on your own!”

We were soon trundling down one of North Carolina’s two-lane roads following Turk, who was towing his 200 mph Camaro. Our anxiety increased when we turned off onto a little dirt road in the middle of nowhere. “This guy is going to take us out in the woods and shoot us,” we thought. But as we rounded a corner, we entered a huge, old air base littered with broken-down jumbo jets. We drove into a little paddock area that looked like some kind of surreal autocross site that had built just for a Hollywood movie. Everything was this close to normal, but something was off.

That’s when we realized that the participants, and the toys they were playing with, were very different. It was as if somebody had said, “instead of just driving around the cones today, let’s all try to go 200 mph in a straight line.”

Another layer of sensory confusion was added when we got out of the motorhome; the only thing we could smell was onions. “Weird smell for a race track,” we thought. Then we looked around. Onions were growing all around the entire air base. We were in the middle of what looked like the world’s largest onion field. Thus began our first foray into the wacky, wonderful world of land speed racing.

Top Speed in the RoSpit:

Rennie Bryant was to handle the driving chores. He was chosen for this project because he was crazy enough to drive our car that fast, and because he had been bugging us for two years to try this sort of racing. Please bear in mind that the Ro-Spit was designed, tuned and geared to get around an autocross course quickly. No thoughts at all were given to top-speed gearing or aerodynamics.

Still, on its first pass, the little yellow screamer ran 125 mph. Not bad for a Triumph Spitfire. With just tire pressure adjustments and some duct tape to smooth the aerodynamics, we managed to set a record in E/FMS (E Fuel Modified Sports) with a pass of 131.46939 mph.

Unfortunately, the Ro-Spit’s gearing had us right at the bottom of fifth gear coming through the traps at the end of the nearly two-mile pass. Leaving it in forth gear had us turning nearly 9000 rpm at the traps. Since peak power for the Ro-Spit is at about 7000 rpm, neither situation was ideal.Experienced racers on site told us that if we had fitted a hardtop and installed larger rear tires, we would have crossed the traps in fourth gear at about 135 or 140 mph.

Just wait until next time.

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