Next morning the now familiar starting area has an added sense of purpose. The only cars here are those making record runs, so everyone is under the same stress as they line up to have their shot at history. The weather has taken a turn for the worse, with large thunderclouds encircling the Salt Flats and jagged forks of lightning sparking across the sky. It’s blustery too, with a powerful crosswind reportedly cutting a diagonal and potentially lethal path from left to right across both Long Courses.
There are a bunch of cars ahead of us in the queue for Course 2, but no one seems too keen on making a run. The start official makes his way down the line asking who’d like to go. A few drops of rain hit the Skoda’s windscreen as he reaches us. We all decide we haven’t come this far to be denied, so the boys wheel me up to the front of the line. This is it!
Subscribe to evo magazine
The start marshal always checks the driver is securely strapped in before they wave them off. Today is no different, except he’s also at pains to warn me of the crosswind (gusting to 16mph somewhere between the 3.5 and 4.5 mile markers) and to remind me that I don’t have to make the run. Now in the grip of salt fever, I assure him I want to run, so he steps aside and waves me off.
Revo Technik’s ‘Boss of Boost’ has wound a little more mumbo into the motor just to help us on our way. It’s hard to be sure, but it probably equates to almost 600bhp at the wheels. The first four gears have always been traction-limited, but now as I shift up into 5th the Octavia’s clawing at the salt yet again, even as we pass 180mph. Upshift to sixth at just over 200 and the revs drop straight back into the engine’s sweet spot. The super-long stride of top gear j-u-s-t tames the traction issues and the Octavia continues to accelerate with startling conviction, numbers piling on beyond 200 like never before, but just as I begin to relax into the run, the crosswind slams across the Octavia’s nose.
A more seasoned driver would have run up the left side of the 35-metre wide course, but nerves and inexperience mean I’ve driven straight up the middle. The crosswind is strong and sustained; shoving us a good 10 metres to the right before I’ve really had a chance to apply any left lock. In all previous runs – even a butt-puckering 202mph test run with the rear boot spoiler removed – I’ve just nudged the Skoda’s steering with almost imperceptible inputs for fear of scrubbing speed, or worse upsetting its delicate directional stability. Now there’s nothing for it but to apply an eighth of a turn of left lock in the vain hope it’ll check our inexorable drift to the right.
I fight the urge to lift even though for an uncomfortable few seconds I’m certain we’re going to leave the course. To my great relief we slip from the crosswind’s grasp with perhaps a metre to spare. From start to finish this heart-in-the-mouth moment has lasted no more than a handful of seconds, but at 228mph that’s getting on for half a mile! I keep it pinned to the five-mile marker. On releasing the ’chute I’m instantly overwhelmed with relief, disbelief, pride, euphoria and a monster hit of adrenalin. We haven’t just beaten the record, we’ve smashed it, posting a peak average of 228.642mph. When averaged with yesterday’s run, we get a new G/PS class record of 227.08mph. It also means I become a life member of Bonneville’s 200mph Club and get a coveted red hat to prove it.
To come as rookies and leave as world record holders is testament to the imagination, skill and dedication of everyone involved. None of us will forget Speed Week. Moreover I suspect Speed Week won’t forget the curious Czech-born, British-built car that took a Land Speed Record and an unlikely place in history. To anyone who doubted the validity or relevance of this project, I’m pleased to say the joke’s on you. dedication of everyone involved. None of us will forget Speed Week. Moreover I suspect Speed Week won’t forget the curious Czech-born, British-built car that took a Land Speed Record and an unlikely place in history. To anyone who doubted the validity or relevance of this project I’m pleased to say the joke’s on you.