Driven to the US by a need for speed

Flying Kiwis . . . The Kiwi Coupe Racing team (from left) Jenni Barnes, of Riverton, Steve McConnachie, Carol and Gerard Perkins, Rodney Kennedy, all of Dunedin, Chris Barnes, of Riverton, Owen Jones, Wayne and Juanita Arthur, Jane Jones and Sonia Kennedy, all of Dunedin, pose with a 1934 Plymouth coupe on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, United States in August. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

In a series, Shawn McAvinue spends five minutes with Dunedin motorsport enthusiasts about their passion for their form of racing.

When did you return home?

On August 25 – we spent four weeks in the United States. We did touristy bits in San Francisco – Alcatraz and Pier 39 – and went to Hot August Nights, a car show in Reno with 7000 cars on display before going to the salt flats in Utah.

Did you get straight into racing?

No. They have four tracks – rookie, two short and a long. To drive on the long track you need to pass three tests on the other tracks. They want to check the driver and car. They don’t want people to go out and go as fast as they can and kill themselves. You’ve got to prove you and the car are up to it.

How fast did you get the car on the long track?

It did about 120mph (193kmh) in second gear, 200.5mph (322kmh) in third gear, and I changed to top gear but it was so high, I lost all my power. After the run I told Chris [co-owner Chris Barnes] to stay in third gear, and he did, and went through at 220mph (354kmh).

Was it fast enough for you?

My goal was to do over 200mph (321kmh) and I achieved that but I would have liked to have gone faster.

What’s it like driving at 200mph?

There is so much noise and vibration in the car – it’s a beast – and it’s nice when you pull the parachute because it’s nerve-racking. After getting out of the car – it’s dead quiet and there is nothing for miles, just white salt and mountains in the background. It’s really quite nice.

Could your car go faster?

We learnt a lot about the car and have a lot of data to see how the car is running at different speeds and we can make adjustments. We are going to change the gearing a little bit. It has potential to go a lot faster.

Any unforeseen issues?

We couldn’t get medical insurance cover when racing on the salt flats, so if something happened it wouldn’t have been good – a stay in an American hospital is expensive and that was in the back of my mind when deciding if you should push the limits.

But we’ve since found some American companies which would insure us.

Will you be back for Speed Week 2019?

Chris wants to go back and break the world record but I’m thinking of selling my half of the car – if someone wants to drive on salt over 200mph, give us a bell.


Owen Jones, of Dunedin and Chris Barnes, of Riverton, co-own a 1934 Plymouth coupe and took turns racing it during Speed Week 2018 on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States last month.

Mr Jones reached a top speed of 200.5mph (323kmh), the next day Mr Barnes reached 220mph (354kmh).

Work has begun to return the coupe to Speed Week 2019 to break the 263mph (423kmh) record for its class.