David Bullock breaks land speed record at Speed Week with customised car

David Bullock from Penola has set a new Australian record with his Lakester car at the Lake Gairdner Speed Week, racing at an average of 389 kilometres per hour.

The Lake Gairdner Speed Week is run by the DLRA (Dry Lake Racers Australia), using rules set out by SCTA (Southern California Timing Association). The Speed Week has the same rules that are used for the racers that run at the famous Bonneville Utah track in the USA, which is why all times and measurements are in miles and mph.

The event is held every year, being March 4-8 this year. The location, Lake Gairdner, approximately 2.5 hours north west of Port Augusta.

The event is open to cars, motorcycles, trucks and special construction vehicles (Lakesters and Streamliners), and this year attracted around 260 competitors from all around Australia, and a couple of international competitors.

The lake is 150km long and 50km wide at its widest point. Competition timing starts at the two mile mark and times are then given from the two to three mile, three to four mile, four to five mile, and five to six mile marks. Competitors then have another six miles to slow down if required.

"The car class we ran in is a Lakester, basically a special construction vehicle that has the wheels exposed," David said.

The body of the car is actually an old fuel tank from an aircraft and has a roll cage and chassis built within it, the engine is a 632 ci chev (10.3 lt), the gearbox is a two speed Doug Nash, and the car is generally taken to 150mph before it is changed to second, and then there is a Ford nine inch diff. The car is normally aspirated, and runs on normal pump fuel and puts out about 800hp.

"The car was originally built in America and has raced at the world-famous Bonneville Salt Flats, and last year a friend of mine (John Harding) purchased the car and brought it to Australia to run in the 2018 Speedweek at Lake Gairdner," David said.

"I was lucky enough to drive the car at that event, and achieve my top speed of 214mph. I purchased the car after the event, and brought it back to Penola.

"But last year the car had some major handling issues and was horrible to drive, so once the car was back in Penola it was decided very quickly some major work need to be done to the suspension and chassis for it to go any faster.

"I was fortunate to have Peter Taylor from Ellen St Workshops here in Penola show a lot of interest in the car, and he offered his time and workshop for us to start some major rebuilding of the car.

"Between the two of us we have completely rebuilt the suspension and added a lot more bar work to strengthen the chassis and roll cage. With out his help, the car wouldn’t be as good as it is now.

"Our aim was to have a car that was comfortable to drive, and we knew that with the comfort, the speed would come with minor adjustments."

This year the Lakester had four drivers, Peter and David from Penola, and Noel and Victoria Heenan from Mooroopna in Victoria.

Both Noel and Victoria drove the car last year, and last year Noel gained his 175mph licence, and Victoria got her 125mph licence. Their aim this year was to get their 200mph and 175mph licence respectively, both of which they achieved.

Peter was having his first drive, and first got his 125mph licence, followed by his 150mph licence.

David had his first run on Tuesday with a slight tail breeze, and had a run of 245mph (394kph). His next run, on Thursday, had a slight head breeze and run 241mph, then had a backup run first thing Friday morning.

The Friday run had perfect conditions with no wind and 20 degree temperatures, and David managed 243mph, to get an average of 242mph (389kph) and a new Australia record for the Lakester's class.

On the last run the team saw 300 more engine revs than they had seen all week, but this didn’t show in out in their final speed. They believe the car in its current aerodynamic configuration wont go much faster, as the car is catching so much wind that they are now spinning the tyres at 240+mph to try push the car through the air. Plans are already in place to make the car more aerodynamic.

David raced HQ Holdens at Calder Park Thunderdome in the early 1990s, before moving to America in 1995, working for three different NASCAR teams. He built and worked on cars for Darryl Waltrip, Kurt Busch, and Mark Martin.

"In 2002 we finished second in the NASCAR championship with Mark Martin driving," David said.

"In 2003 I then worked for Jason Myers while he competed in the World Of Outlaws Sprintcar Series, before moving back to Australia permanently in 2006."

David and the team are already looking towards the future, and next year they are looking to go over 250mph with the car, and then from there trying some other engine combination that will put them in different classes.

"We could do some major aerodynamic work to it and possibly push the 275mph barrier, but don’t want to lose the character of the original car," David said. 

"Once I am 100% happy with the handling of the car I may make it available for people to pay for a drive."

This year was the 29th running of Speed Week in Australia, and next year there is already talk of some American streamliner teams coming out looking to run at 400+mph.

Peter and David are also looking to build another car in the future which could possibly be twin engine and be fully enclosed, and 300mph has been mentioned a couple of times.

If anyone is interested in any more information on how to become involved, or may be looking to sponsor a land speed car, please look up Wombat Racing on Facebook.