The Idea – 100mph, Pendine Sands, February 27th-28th 2010!
Once in a lifetime, the opportunity comes along to make your mark on the world we all share. It may be by inventing some fantastic new cure for some hideous disease, or solving world conflicts. In the case of Project Runningblade, the chance to advance science has come in the form of breaking a world record. On July 4th, 2006, Bob Cleveland from the USA threw down the gauntlet to the world by becoming the first human being to travel at more than 80 mph on a lawn mower: no mean achievement. Since then, no-one has dared to try and beat his record – until now.
Team Runningblade, headed by Stephen Vokins, aims to bring this world record to Great Britain, and by a margin of more than 25%! “Lets get serious”, says Vokins. “This is a proper record, and building a lawnmower capable of speeds well into 3 figures is no easy feat undertaken in an afternoon. For a start, it still has to be a lawnmower, capable of cutting grass properly. And then it has to obey the laws of physics that will try to stop it going so fast, both through drag and also aerodynamics.
There is a real danger that if the aerodynamics are wrong, it will flip up in the air, with disastrous results”. “Be under no illusions: this is no collection of blokes standing around in a shed wondering what to do until the pub opens. Backed by some of Britains finest companies who are contributing their expertise and funds to the project, this is a hand-picked team of professionals and experts in their fields, all bringing their knowledge and experience to achieve something that no-one has ever done before – to crack the ton on a ride-on lawnmower!” In addition to breaking the record, the Team are also committed to raise money for the two charities they support – Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and Wessex Heartbeat
100mph may not sound very fast, and most modern cars are capable of reaching such speed. However, at 100mph, the lawnmower will be travelling down Pendine Sands covering the ground at a rate of at least 147 feet per second, and will travel through the measured mile in less than 36 seconds. The wind resistance at this speed is considerable: ask any motorcyclist! And then there’s the aerodynamics to consider: too much down pressure will waste engine power, slowing it down, whilst insufficient could result in the machine actually becoming airborne with potentially disastrous results. Keeping it going in a straight line is another problem.
Making a machine light enough and stable enough to pass these hurdles is a huge challenge, and safety is a concern of paramount importance if we are to avoid imitating Richard Hammond’s now famous stunt. Building an engine with enough torque to push it through the cold air at 100mph is another challenge, and to cap it all, the machine that takes the record will still be capable of cutting grass, which it will demonstrate on the very same day it takes the record.
In order for the record to be internationally accepted, the team will be using the rules set for cars many decades ago: the speed will be measured by travelling through a measured mile in both directions, each run within one hour of the other, and the average of the two runs will determine the final speed.