Pendine Sands is a 7-mile (11 km) length of beach on the shores of Carmarthen Bay on the south coast of Wales. It stretches from Gilman Point in the west to Laugharne Sands in the east. The village of Pendine is close to the western end of Pendine Sands.
In the early 1900s the sands were used as a venue for car and motor cycle races. From 1922 the annual Welsh TT motor cycle event was held at Pendine Sands. The firm flat surface of the beach created a race track that was straighter and smoother than many major roads of the time. Motor Cycle magazine described the sands as "the finest natural speedway imaginable".
In the 1920s it became clear that roads and race tracks were no longer adequate venues for attempts on the world land speed record. As record-breaking speeds approached 150 mph (240 km/h), the requirements for acceleration to top speed before the measured mile and safe braking distance afterwards meant that a smooth, flat, straight surface of at least 5 miles (8.0 km) in length was needed.
The first person to use Pendine Sands for a world land speed record attempt was Malcolm Campbell. On September 25, 1924 he set a world land speed record of 146.16 mph (235.22 km/h) on Pendine Sands in his Sunbeam 350HP car Blue Bird.
Four other record-breaking runs were made on Pendine Sands between 1924 and 1927; two more by Campbell, and two by Welshman J. G. Parry-Thomas in his car Babs. The 150 mph (240 km/h) barrier was decisively broken, and Campbell raised the record to 174.22 mph (280.38 km/h) in February 1927 with his second Blue Bird. On March 3, 1927 Parry-Thomas attempted to beat Campbell's record. On his final run while travelling at about 170 mph (270 km/h) the car crashed. There is an untrue urban myth that the exposed drive chain broke and partially decapitated him; Babs went out of control and rolled over. Parry-Thomas was the first driver to be killed in a world land speed record attempt. One further attempt at the Land Speed Record was made on Pendine sands later in 1927 by Forresti in Djelmo
In June 2000 Don Wales, grandson of Malcolm Campbell and nephew of Donald Campbell, set the United Kingdom electric land speed record at Pendine Sands in Bluebird Electric 2, achieving a speed of 137 mph (220 km/h).
In 1933 Amy Johnson and her husband, Jim Mollison, took off from Pendine Sands in a de Havilland Dragon Rapide, G-ACCV "Seafarer", to fly non-stop to New York. Their aircraft ran out of fuel and was forced to crash-land at Bridgeport, Connecticut, just short of New York; both were seriously injured in the crash.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) acquired Pendine Sands during the Second World War and used it as a firing range. The beach is still owned by the Ministry of Defence; prominent signs warn of the dangers of unexploded munitions and public access is restricted. Monday to Friday part of the beach is closed off because of MOD operations. Between 9 July 2004 and May 2010 all vehicles were banned from using Pendine owing to safety concerns, but since May 2010 cars have again been allowed access.
Parry-Thomas's car was buried in the sand dunes near the village of Pendine after his accident. In 1969 Owen Wyn Owen, an engineering lecturer from Bangor Technical College, received permission to excavate Babs, which he spent the next 16 years restoring. The car can usually be seen on display at the Museum of Speed in Pendine village during the summer months.
June 21 and 22 2013, Pendine Land Speed Racing Club initiated Land speed racing events again on the sands.
The Vintage Hot Rod Association hosted their inaugural Amateur Hot Rod Races on 7 September 2013. Racing was open to members of the VHRA and their pre-1949 hot rods and saw 80 vehicles being timed flat out on the sands. This is now an annual happening with the second event having been run over run over the weekend of 28 & 29 June 2014.
In September 2013 Guy Martin broke the UK speed record for a bicycle ridden in the slipstream of another vehicle. He hit a top speed of 112.9 mph while riding behind a modified truck driven by former British Truck Racing Championship winner, Dave Jenkins. The preparations for the record attempt were documented in Episode 1 of a Channel Four series called 'Speed with Guy Martin', first broadcast in the UK on 29/12/13.
- "Enter the Dragon", Telegraph Media Group, 1 November 2001, retrieved 2 March 2013
- Sheers, Owen (1 May 2012), "Wales: exploring the new coastal path in Dylan Thomas country", Telegraph Media Group, retrieved 2 March 2013
- "Wales and the History of the World – 'Babs'". BBC. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
- Tremayne (1991), p. 9
- "Bluebird eyes world record", BBC News Online, 14 February 2001, retrieved 1 October 2010
- Aitken, Kenneth (July 1991), "Amy Johnson (The Speed Seekers)", Aeroplane Monthly 9 (219)
- Winn (2009), p. 62
- Six-year car ban at Pendine sands reversed, BBC News Online, 4 June 2010, retrieved 1 November 2010
- "Wales: Old girl with a racy past", Telegraph Media Group, 12 August 2000, retrieved 2 March 2013
- "Former land speed record car on display in driver's hometown", ITV, 5 November 2012, retrieved 2 March 2013
- "Pendine Museum of Speed", Carmarthenshire County Council, retrieved 2 March 2013
- "The 112mph BICYCLE: Bike shop owner spends £5,000 building a vehicle that has earned him a place in the record books", Daily Mail Online, 30 December 2013, retrieved 30 December 2013
- "Speed with Guy Martin", Channel Four, retrieved 30 December 2013
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