Today in History: Blind driver breaks land-speed record

Blind driver Belgian Luc Costermans (right), 43 years old, poses with his co-pilot Guillaume Roman in front of his Lamborghini Gallardo on 11 October 2008 in Istres, south-eastern France. Image: Gerard Julien/ AFP/ Getty Images.

On this day in 2008, a man from Belgium named Luc Costermans set a new world speed record for blind drivers – 308,9 kp/h.

He was accompanied by a carload of sophisticated navigational equipment as well as a co-pilot, who gave directions from the Lamborghini’s passenger seat.

The record Costermans broke had been set exactly three years before by British driver Mike Newman. On that day, Newman had coaxed his 507-horsepower BMW M5 to a top speed of 286,2kp/h. Over a measured mile, Newman’s speed averaged 269,2kp/h. For his part, Newman had smashed a two-year-old record – 232,8kp/h – that he had set himself in a borrowed Jaguar, just three days after he learned to drive.

Unlike Costermans, Newman did not race with a co-pilot or a navigator. Instead, he got his father-in-law to zoom around the track behind him, shouting directions over the radio.

Both of these blind record-setters were all-around daredevils who raced all sorts of vehicles. In 2001, for example, Newman became the fastest blind motorcycle driver in the world (his record speed was 143kp/h) just four days after learning to drive; five years later, Costermans flew a small airplane all around France, joined by an instructor and a navigator.

Another record-setter, an Englishman named Steve Cunningham, had set the land-speed record himself in 1999 (236,5kp/h, while driving a £70 000 Chrysler Viper) at the same time that he held the sea-speed record for a blind sailor. In 2004, guided by sophisticated talking navigational software, Cunningham became the first blind pilot to circumnavigate the United Kingdom by air.

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at northsider@caxton.co.za  (remember to include your contact details) or phone us on 011 955 1130.

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  AUTHOR
Blake Linder
Journalist

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