Land Speed Record for
the 288 GTO
The Flying Horse
The story of Cavallo Volante and our attempt to set the Ferrari land speed record started when I happened to see a movie, The World’s Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins. It was the story of sixty some year old New Zealander who decided to go to the Bonneville Salts Flats in Utah and set a speed record with his Indian motorcycle.
After watching the movie it didn’t take long for me to become obsessed with the idea of taking a stock-bodied Ferrari to Bonneville and have a go at a land speed record myself. I shared this idea with Bob Norwood and Tim Taylor one evening during a rowdy dinner in Dallas. The two would prove to be my racing mentors as well as the builders of the P4 seen in the Racing Collection section of this website.
Two weeks later in October 2007 I purchased an old retired Ferrari Bonneville racer that had been rebodied as a 288 GTO for $75,000. It was in rough shape after sitting for eight years. The Bonneville salt had taken its toll. Literally everything on or in the car had to be cleaned or replaced. This restoration of the car had to be done before it would be considered “safe” to start and drive.
Click on the first image below to see a gallery showing the re-buidling of the Ferrari 288 GTO.
Click on the first image below to see a gallery of the rebuilt car.
The rebuilt car was first started in March 2008.
The next day the car was taken to the dyno for testing and final tuning.
May 2008 was the first time I got to drive the car.
After testing, the newly named Cavallo Volante was taken to the Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week in August 2008 and entered in the AA/BFMS class (AA – larger than 500 cubic inch displacement engine: BFMS – Blown Fuel Modified Sport). Rather than drive the car myself, Tom Stephens, an experienced Bonneville driver was enlisted to set a record. Then it was planned that I would drive, complete my licensing runs and qualify to set an even faster record. After several test and tuning runs down the 5 mile course, an attempt was made to set one leg of a two leg record try. This full power pass resulted in a blown engine and fire ending our 2008 attempt at a record.
We spent the fall of 2008 and winter months of 2009 rebuilding the engine, increasing the horsepower and durability. In early September we sent the car to the dyno once again.
It was also decided that I would now be the only driver. My wife Katherine and I flew to Dallas to meet with the Black Horse Racing team and for the dyno testing as well, to get some “seat time” in the car at the Dallas Raceway.
In October we took the car back to Bonneville for the 2009 World Finals. During this meet I qualified for my Unlimited Speed License (license to drive at speeds greater than 250 MPH). I was one of the few rookie drivers to ever pass all qualifications for this license in one racing meet.
In June we started our racing season once again at the dyno to test a new turbocharging inter-cooler system which we hoped would give us a solid 2000+ HP and hopefully give the reliability to complete the required two passes, which are then averaged to set a record.
After the dyno testing, it was back to the Dallas Speedway for some track time.
Finally, in October we traveled back to Bonneville for the World Finals. After a “tech” and safety inspection we prepared for our first run. We took five testing and tuning runs during the first several days of the meet and then on October 8th we made our first attempt at the record, 276.152 MPH. That was enough to qualify for a final record run the next day. This speed surprised the race officials. The consensus seemed to be that a stock bodied car, with a newly licensed rookie, would be lucky to exceed 250 MPH. Right after this run the car was taken to “Impound” where we had one hour in which we could check it over and prepare for the final record attempt the following morning.
October 9, 2010
Final Record Run day. All the cars in “Impound” that had completed their record qualification run were pushed to the starting line for the Final runs. The Black Horse Team was one of first at the start line. The crew prepared and warmed up the car while I “suited up” and got securely belted in the car to wait our turn.
After waiting about ten minutes, the starter gave us the go ahead and Cavallo Volante was off …and flying. The starter had told me that there was a soft spot between mile 3 and 4 and so I picked a narrow line to the left of the track and tried to guide the car along, making hundreds of tiny steering corrections as the car drifted first left then right down the track. I also discovered that I was having vision problems in my right eye, so I put my visor up after the start (see video) and shut that eye. I concentrated on the left edge of the course and shifted through the gears at full throttle. I was going to do this, and quitting now was not an option in my mind, vision problems or not. (Though I underwent retinal repair surgery one month later.) Cavallo Volante didn’t disappoint. We completed the final record run at an average speed of 274.650 MPH and set a new world record of 275.401 MPH.
After setting a new record the Black Horse team loaded up the car and headed back to Whidbey Island. Cavallo Volante is now retired and enjoys the good life in a heated showroom with occasional journeys to be displayed at local Seattle area car shows.
The World’s Fastest Ferrari