Sometimes it’s better to keep one’s accomplishments to yourself, so says our managing editor regarding behaviour on the roads. Let’s head into Speed Limits Everywhere.
There’s been a story doing the rounds online of late about a businessman who conducted a top speed run in a Bugatti Chiron on a section of German autobahn. This got me thinking about top speeds and road behaviour.
Have you heard the story about the AC Cobra Coupe that did 298 km/h on a public motorway in the UK? It was 1964 and the team was testing their car for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans. There were no speed limits on motorways in the UK at the time so the team wasn’t breaking any laws.
The story of driver Jack Sears ‘achievement’ was widely reported at the time. The team was careful as was the driver. They conducted the run just after sunrise when there was very little traffic. Additionally, Sears shared that he slowed for other road users. Albeit slowed to ‘just’ 200 km/h…
A few years ago Sears said it was common practice for teams of the era to use the public road for such activities as no racetrack had a straight as long as that at La Sarthe. Though he admitted that he kept a low profile after the incident to let things blow over.
However, it is often misreported that Sears legendary top speed run, the highest on a UK road, was the reason speed limits of 70 mph (110 km/h) were introduced in Old Blighty. Imagine doing nearly 300 km/h with other traffic around.
Aussie (no) rules
While many people/petrolheads know about Germany’s derestricted autobahns, there is another road that was devoid of speed limits, and in the most unlikely place: Australia. The Stuart Highway runs through the middle of the island nation in a north/south direction.
The northern section of this 2 720 km motorway, from Alice Springs to Darwin had no speed limit. Authorities had a simple rule: behave like an adult and we will treat you like one. Police would happily wave at you doing 200 and plenty on a bright clear day, but they’d pull you over for doing 120 km/h if it was raining.
It was an uncharacteristic approach by the usually draconian Aussies. But, of course, that changed in 2007 when a 130 km/h restriction was instituted. For about a year in 2016 authorities lifted the limit on one small section but it has since been reinstated.
This brings us back to our friend in Germany. Deutschland has long been known as the land of fast cars and roads on which to enjoy them. Many people, wrongly, believe that once you merge onto a highway it’s a flat out blast to the horizon. This isn’t the case.
Over the years German authorities have limited the max speed one can travel on any given section of road. There are derestricted sections, denoted by the ‘cricket-ball’ sign. These sections usually last a few km before you have to return to the speed limit. Then too, electronic signs may negate the fixed ‘white circle with stripes’ board.
In the news
Czech millionaire Radim Passer made headlines recently by posting a video of him doing 414 km/h in his Bugatti Chiron. This isn’t the first time he’s run a Bugatti flat out on a public road. A few years ago he did the same with his Veyron. Passer recorded his recent antics and broadcast it via his YouTube channel. The slick video was shared through many news outlets and raised the ire of the German Transport Ministry.
Last week it released a statement criticising Passer’s actions. It stated: “The Ministry rejects any behaviour in road traffic that leads or can lead to endangering road users”. Referring to German traffic law, it added, “anyone participating in traffic must behave in such a way that no other person is harmed, endangered or obstructed or inconvenienced more than is unavoidable under the circumstances”.
We aren’t quite sure why Passer bothered to document the run so carefully. Footage from multiple cars and static cameras, all in high-def, were spliced together to form the short clip (see below) to share his experience.
Passer is a businessman whose net worth reportedly runs into hundreds of millions of US Dollars. His YouTube channel has a relatively small following and doesn’t seem to be a source of significant income. We can only guess that his ego needed a bit of stroking. While his actions were not unlawful, his well-captured run will definitely add fuel to debate by those who wish to add speed limits to Germany’s entire road network.
It’s an irony of this day and age that automakers produce cars that are ever faster but the time and places to enjoy them are ever fewer. Any car north of 200 kW is very difficult to extract much enjoyment out of in public spaces. Now imagine a Bugatti Chiron with over 1 100 kW, heck, even the top dog BMW M5 has almost 470 kW.
If you want to enjoy even a fraction of your car’s ability you have to venture far from the urban grind. Or, better yet, head to a local track day. Most major cities in SA have some kind of facility where one can unleash their cars safely and legally.
Behave, and/or keep it quiet
What if Passer did the run in relative anonymity and went home? Would anyone have cared? Probably not, bar the few staunch folks on their way to work that morning. We all have that friend who talks about doing 200 or even 300 km/h on a public road somewhere.
While we don’t condone breaking any law, we do understand that there are times and places that present such an opportunity. Again, let me stress, I don’t condone breaking the law. But if you choose to do so in a safe place at a time that allows you to do so, don’t film it to share online, no good can come from that.