We bought STAY GOLD (formerly Road Zombie II) from Ian Caseley early in 2009 and spent until June 2011 sourcing the funding to run her.
The AirAsia backing from Tony Fernandes came on stream at the start of 2012, which meant setting up the team and getting all the necessary equipment in the months leading up to August in between the various grands prix around the world. July in particular that year was… stressful.
Andrew Hurdle and Kieran Westman were ready and waiting for the green light, and assisted by Joe Westman and Paul Jewell were instrumental in getting GOLD’s Viper motor running again and conducting a couple of tie-down tests. After GOLD had been repainted and decaled up, I had my first taste of running a jet engine at The Cotswold Airport (formerly RAF Kemble) on August 22, although annoyingly we were not able to run the car as planned that day. That problem was rectified for the 23rd, and after one familiarisation run with only a brief squirt of reheat, I had my first pukka run with it which yielded a maximum over around 300 metres of 205.22 mph.
Immediately after that we realised that we had a problem with the rear bearing and needed a new engine, which is when the frustration started. We did the Best of British Show at Kemble in late August, then started looking. Unfortunately, we opted in March 2013 to buy two Viper 601s from a source in Derby. One we knew would be spares only but we expected the other to be our race engine. The moment Andrew, Kieran, Paul and Joe got it fitted into GOLD, however, we realised it was completely unfit for purpose with oil and fuel leakages. That would have a huge knock-on effect that has cost us a lot of money and kept us out of action until now.
That led us to buy a Viper 535 from drag racer Martin Hill in May 2013. It came from a Saudi Royal Airforce Strikemaster and its logbook said it was a good one. We still believe it is, but have had ongoing problems getting it to run properly. We are close to solving those at last after months and months of seeking the right people to help us, thanks to John Sparks and his crew down at Horizon Aircraft at St Athan, near Cardiff in Wales.
As soon as we have completed small but crucial modifications to the fuel system, and moved into a new home, we’ll be starting our 2015 test programme prior to challenging the UK land speed record in August.