Pendine Sands is 7 miles (11 km) of beach on the shores of Carmarthen Bay on the south coast of Wales. It stretches west to east from Gilman Point to Laugharne Sands. 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".
Classic record attempts
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. Firstly the 150 mph (240 km/h) barrier was broken by Campbell. In April 1926, Parry-Thomas added approximately 20mph to break the land speed record at 171.02 mph (273.6 km/h). 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 planned by Giulio Foresti in the "Djelmo", but Foresti crashed during a test run on the 26th of November 1927, totally destroying the car.
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. From 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 because of 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.
On 21 and 22 June 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 Pendine Sands 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. The event culminated in the VHRA winning the Motoring Event of the Year at the International Historic Motoring Awards. This is an annual event, with hot rodders from around the world taking part.
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 4 series called Speed with Guy Martin, first broadcast in the UK in December 2013.
On 21 July 2015 at Pendine beach in Wales, the 90th anniversary of Sir Malcolm Campbell's first world land speed record in ‘Bluebird’ was recreated by his grandson, Don Wales, also a land speed record holder, in the fully restored car. Commenting on the restoration appeal Wales said: "This beautiful car has been lovingly restored and looked after by Doug Hill and the team and it's only right that such an iconic car deserves to have the final pieces in place to complete her!"' The new gearbox will be part of a long term project to restore the car to its 1925 specifications. This would also require the fabrication of two full-length exhaust pipes, a new seat and upholstery, and the re-manufacture of a slightly dropped nose cone and rear wheel spats.
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