Having spent the last few years chasing the title of fastest blind man in various disciplines and in all manner of vehicles, it’s safe to say that Mike Newman (54) is no stranger to speed. It’s also fair to assume that his latest achievement, recently becoming the fastest blind person in a racing truck, was also one of his most daunting. The multiple Guinness World Record holder and founder of the Speed of Sight charity once again teamed up with Gloucestershire based Litchfield for the occasion, the tuner supplying and suitably modifying the all-important BMW 235i chase car that followed Mike down Elvington’s runway. The record run saw him hit an impressive 120mph, beat the previous time by a hefty 20 seconds and saw his name inked into the annals of history once again, this time as the worthy holder of the Guinness World Record for the blind driver of a truck!
The pairings’ previously successful assault on the blind land speed record had taught everyone involved some valuable lessons and opened the door for further cooperation between Mike and Litchfield. The ultimately fruitful 2014 run required Litchfield to construct two 1200bhp Nissan GT-Rs, one for Mike and one to act as chase car, and though the existing truck record would ultimately be significantly slower than that of the car, the endeavor was still fraught with difficulty and more than a few engineering challenges.
2014’s attempt with the Nissan had left the team in no doubt as to the difficulties associated with topping 200mph on Elvington’s rutted and aged runways, the principle problem being the amount of detritus sure to be picked up by the 5.5 ton truck and thrown directly into the path of the chase car. The latter is an essential component in the record attempt, with the rules clearly stating that all hopefuls must complete their runs without anyone else in the vehicle and with the minimum of guidance via radio communication. The solution was to commission a one-off clear wrap, a joint project undertaken by the vinyl experts at 3M and Wrap Cube. Not only did this coat the entire front end of the BMW 235i chase car, but it provided protection from anything kicked up by the truck thundering along ahead of it and allowed Mike to be precisely guided down the tarmac at speed.
As you might imagine from one of Europe’s leading tuners, Litchfield’s BMW 235i chase car was far from stock! A cat-back exhaust with Akrapovic silencer and carbon trail trims was bolted into place behind the turbocharged inline six, while the chassis was given an overhaul, with Bilstein Ride Control dampers and 19in BBS alloys coated in Michelin Supersport tyres, all finding their way onto the 235i. The car’s ECU was then carefully re-calibrated and remapped, a change that left the car with 400bhp, an impressive increase over the 322bhp that it rolled off the line with. These careful alterations were enough to give the chase car a fighting chance against the truck thundering along ahead of it, and everyone involved was swift to highlight the noticeable improvements in stability and performance resulting from Litchfield’s work.
With the chase car appropriately equipped and Mike given a crash course in how to operate a fully fettled race truck from its owner, Dave Jenkins, he was ready. A series of practice runs in the morning had enabled him to get the feel of the lorry and how it handled when being pushed way beyond the national speed limit, but the target figure was still on the high side and success was far from guaranteed. The aforementioned rules ensured that Mike was alone in the cab of the lorry and that the job of guiding him was down to Dave, a daunting prospect for both individuals and a key part of what makes these record attempts so impressive. Mike’s innate vehicle control and ability to sense when to press on and when to back off was in evidence from the moment he set off, and he only needed a handful of attempts to record a new world record of 120mph, a time calculated from two separate runs and enough to shatter the previous record by a significant margin.
“It feels fantastic to have achieved another one of my lifetime ambitions and I’m over the moon to have beaten the previous record by so much time,” explained Mike soon after stepping out of the cab. “I hope that this Guinness World Record helps highlight the work carried out by everyone involved with Speed of Sight.”
Iain Litchfield was also full of praise for Mike’s efforts, though also keen to point out some of the difficulties that’d had to be overcome beforehand;
“We are of course delighted to be involved with Mike and Speed of Sight and even happier that we’ve once again been able to help him achieve his record breaking goals. This attempt wasn’t without its fair share of issues though, and amount of debris being picked up by the race truck and thrown directly at the BMW was alarming at times, so it’s just as well that we took precautions to protect the bodywork.”
Mike and Litchfield have achieved a huge amount together, though it’s important to remember that the principle reason behind their multiple record attempts isn’t fame or glory, it’s to raise awareness of Speed of Sight. Mike’s charity specialises in the creation of dual-controlled track and race cars to allow those suffering from disabilities to get behind the wheel once again, and as such it’s perfectly suited to his continued record breaking attempts.
For more information on Mike and Speed of Sight, please click to www.speedofsight.co.uk
For more information on Litchfield, please click to www.litchfieldimports.co.uk
For more information on 3M, please click to www.3m.co.uk/3M/en_GB/company-uk/
For more information on 3M, please click to http://wrapcube.co.uk