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Triple treat for speed demons

While Renault's Fernando Alonso and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher dish it out to each other on the race track, Honda's Formula One team have been working on the pure need for speed. Over the last two years, they have set themselves a challenge of cracking 400kph in an F1 car.

And it would seem they have finally reached their milestone.

On the first day of this year's effort on the flat, shimmering expanse that is the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US, the Honda team scored a triple success by setting a new F1 speed record, and breaking two existing land speed marks.

Driver Alan van der Merwe piloted a race legal Honda 007 along a seven mile-long salt straight, achieving an aggregate speed of 220.571mph over two runs of a measured mile.

The speed was recorded by both the Federation Internationale Automobile (FIA) and the US Auto Club (USAC) and represented the fastest ever recorded by a Formula 1 car over a timed distance, pending official ratification by the FIA.

As well as setting the world's first official land speed record for a F1 car, the speed achieved also represented a new mark for the A2-8 class of land speed vehicles, and a new best speed of 355.499kph for the flying kilometre.

Following the milestone, Bonneville 400 driver Alan van der Merwe said: "We've made huge progress today by setting this new benchmark for an F1 car.

"On my first runs, I doubted we could do it because the surface was so slippery. I had a spin or two, but the salt surface came to us and we were able to set this new record."

By the final day, though, the pace was even hotter. After the team cracked 397kph on the penultimate day of testing, the magical 400 arrived when it mattered on the very last day. "Altogether, it has been great to set the record and very rewarding to reach 400kph," van der Merwe said.

Mike Cook, President of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) and veteran of several land speed record attempts at Bonneville, was equally as pleased that the team had stayed on to push its own records even higher:

"First of all, I want to say we really feel the team came out and worked very, very hard right down the side. They truly are Bonneville racers now.

"We out here call them the Formula One Hot Rod now because they did everything humanly possible to make this car run as fast as it has.

"They accomplished a 246.980mph average for the mile, which means they have increased their speed again, and they got a 397.481, so today was a success. They didn't get a 400 record but they got their 400 one-way run, so maybe it'll enthuse them to come back," Cook said.

Bonneville 400 Technical Director Gary Savage said afterwards that the only thing there is "is the stop watch, no excuses, no nothing, you just go for it.

"The team were fantastic they did everything on the car to get it to go quicker.

"We did hit 400 for one of our runs, we did 399kph for another and our average is 397kph so its pretty good really."

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