Record-breaking steam car owes success to UK engineering expertise

Paul Boughton
The team that broke the world land speed record for a steam-powered car is visiting Spirax Sarco in Cheltenham on 22nd April 2010 as part of its UK tour. As well as being one of the team’s main sponsors, Spirax Sarco played a key role in the success by providing expert engineering advice and high performance valves.

Spirax Sarco was involved with the project from its earliest stages, providing control valves and positioners for steam turbine and boiler prototype testing. These tests revealed that the boiler design had a power output too low to enable the car to reach record-breaking speeds. Spirax Sarco identified the problem as insufficient heat transfer area within the boiler and helped to redesign the units.

The car itself was fitted with two control valve and positioner sets, one for controlled venting of steam during boiler start up, and the second to control the flow of superheated steam to the turbine – in effect acting as the car’s ‘accelerator’.

Spirax Sarco expertise was crucial in the technical design and testing of the car. Their input ensured that the car had the power and performance capabilities we needed, while the components they provided worked impressively well,” says the teams Project Manager, Matt Candy.

The two C-Series valves used in the car were selected for their high performance and reliability under extreme conditions.

“This must be one of the most extreme tests of steam technology and our products,” explains Marc Eggermont, Director UK and RoI, Spirax Sarco. “Steam is a highly versatile heating media. Not only does steam offer reliable performance, but it is able to meet the most stringent environmental and energy saving demands of a vast range of applications throughout industry.”

The British team broke its first record by achieving an average speed of 139.843mph on two runs over a measured mile. The feat, at the Edward's Air Force Base in California, beat the old record of 127 mph, which had stood since 1906. The second record was set for a measured kilometre – achieving an average speed of 148.308mph on two runs, with a peak speed of 159mph.

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