69-year-old Danny Thompson breaks world speed record
It was a moment his family had been chasing for a half-century.
Racer Danny Thompson, 69, set a land speed record for piston-powered, wheel-driven cars at the Bonneville Salt Flats on Sunday in a vehicle that his father Mickey first brought to Utah in 1968.
The elder Thompson didn't get a chance to drive the streamliner, named Challenger 2, that year due to bad weather, and he never got around to trying again before he and his wife were murdered in 1988 by gunmen hired by a former business associate. At the time, he was restoring the car for Danny to drive.
Instead, it was put way until a few years ago when Danny pulled it out, updated it and began racing it again.
Equipped with twin nitro-burning Hemi V8s with a total of 5,000 horsepower, the all-wheel-drive car is more than twice as powerful as it was when Mickey first built it.
On Saturday, Danny was competing in the Southern California Timing Association Speed Week event when he made a pass at 718.741 kilometres per hour (446.605 miles per hour). He followed up on Sunday morning by going in the opposite direction at 725.668 km/h (450.909 mp/h), for an average of 722.204 km/h (448.757 mp/h).
That easily broke the record of 707.406 km/h (439.562 mp/h) set in 2012, but it wasn't easy. Danny had to steer out of a dangerous slide that occurred at 690 km/h.
It was a clutch move on what will be Challenger 2's last run. After the event, Danny told Fox News the car's work is finally done.
"It's the car's 50th anniversary, and the whole crew pulled together to get the record, so I feel like I've finally put the streamliner's unfinished business to rest."