In the beginning, attempts to set a speed record were still 'normal' on public roads. The first record seems a bit laughable to today's eyes: Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat got into his electric (!) Jeantaud Duc Profilée and drove 63.15 km/h.
It was a Belgian who broke the magical 100 km/h limit in a car for the first time. He did that in an electric La Jamais Contente. The next car to break the record also ran not on petrol, but on steam. It was a Gardner-Serpollet, which reached 120 km/h. This record was set in 1902 on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.
In the course of the nineties it was discovered that the public road was not so convenient for record attempts. Henry Ford reached 147 km/h in his self-designed racing car in 1904 on a frozen lake. Ford's attempt was not officially recognized because the agency responsible for it was in France and was not present live.
The combustion engine car was getting faster and faster. The Blitzen Benz 200 hp, with an engine capacity of 21 (!) liters, reached over 228 km/h at Daytona in 1911. In 1927 came a new record: the 200 mph (327 km/h) limit was broken in a 1000 hp Sunbeam.
It became increasingly clear how much influence aerodynamics had on the maximum speed. The 1933 Campbell-Railton Blue Bird still looks modern in 2021, reaching a speed of 484.59 km/h (more than 300 mph) in 1935 on the Bonneville salt flats.
The absolute speed record has been held for 24 years by the Englishman Andy Green, with a speed of 1223.66 km/h. He broke the sound barrier in 1997 with his Thrust Super Sonic Car. The British Bloodhound SSC has been aiming for an even higher speed of 1700 km/h for years, but that project has been halted due to money problems.
The Bugatti Veyron (408 km/h) was the first passenger car that could go faster than 400 km/h. The fastest car of the moment is the SSC Tuatara, which took the record from the Koenigsegg Agera RS at the beginning of 2021 with a speed of 460.1 km/h. The record is averaged from two-way speed measurements.
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