Crew pushes NZ speed record in Utah

Kiwi Coupe Racing co-owners Owen Jones, of Dunedin (left) and Chris Barnes, of Riverton, sit on...
Kiwi Coupe Racing co-owners Owen Jones, of Dunedin (left) and Chris Barnes, of Riverton, sit on the modified Plymouth at this year's Bonneville Speed Week last month. PHOTO: JENNI BARNES
Geoff Omnet's need for speed has been satisfied - at least for now.

Travelling to the Utah salt flats in the United States with Kiwi Coupe - a highly modified steel-bodied 1934 Plymouth - for Bonneville Speed Week between August 11 and 17, Mr Omnet was one of a crew of eight that included the car's owners, Owen Jones, of Dunedin, and Chris Barnes, of Riverton.

Rocketing across the Bonneville Salt Flats, Mr Barnes recorded a speed of 354.085kmh (220.018mph) in Kiwi Coupe, just a fraction off the New Zealand land speed record set by Eddie Freeman on October 26, 2012, at Ohakea Air Force Base, in a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, at 355.485kmh (220.888mph).

Mr Omnet's job was to drive the truck that pushed the 2.5-tonne coupe, powered by a 427 Merlin V8 engine, up to a speed that allowed it to take off.

Because of its high gear ratio, it was unable to get going on its own.

However, Mr Omnet's job behind the wheel started well before the crew hit the salt flats of Utah.

``My adventure started in San Francisco - the car was there when we arrived. It was in its trailer so we picked up an F250 (Ford) tow truck and I towed it 1000km or 1100km across three states to Bonneville.

When the coupe finished each of its timed runs, Mr Omnet drove the truck to the finish line and gathered up the parachute used to slow the coupe down.

The coupe started competing on the rookie track, where speeds were limited to between 125mph and 150mph.

It progressed through to the five-mile long course track, for vehicles that exceeded 200mph (322kmh).

The coupe hit its top speed during the fifth mile of a timed run, which Mr Omnet said was a thrilling moment.

``It's a bit exciting because he was in fourth gear of five and it was doing 6000 revs; it goes up to 8000. The car's going to go a whole lot faster. It's just what they wanted to do. They never wanted to break a record or break the car.''

Mr Barnes said he felt trepidation when the car reached 170mph, ``but at 193mph, it was like going for a Sunday drive''.

Pushing through 220mph was surreal, he said.

``I never understood till now, you read about it ... at 220mph it feels like you are in a tunnel, it feels so much in slow motion - there is nothing to judge ... all you have got is a line.''

daniel.birchfield@odt.co.nz

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