Spitfire vs Range Rover in a very British test of speed
TWO examples of British engineering – the All-New Range Rover Sport and the legendary Supermarine Spitfire – have engaged in a unique duel “to measure their off-road mastery” and to flag up the start of the Goodwood Festival of Speed which opens this weekend.
In fact, pitting a 1940s aeroplane against a 21st century car does not seem a fair test of anything but, as a clever piece of marketing and an excellent spectacle, it deserves more than a passing mention.
The Range Rover Sport, the fastest production Land Rover to date, represents the latest advances in all-terrain performance. Its rival is Britain’s most famous fighter aircraft. The challenge is a high-speed off-road / in-theair race along the grass airstrip at the Goodwood Aerodrome in Sussex.
The “race” – the first of its kind at the airfield – involved a straight drag run down and back on the runway, punctuated by a nimble U-turn. The bumpy grass airfield, notorious for being a low-traction surface, was particularly challenging for the car – the plane avoided the problem by taking off. The Vickers Supermarine Spitfire lined up for the contest was a 1945-vintage model, piloted by Matt Jones from the Boultbee Flight Academy. Powered by a 1,750bhp V12 Merlin engine, it has a maximum airspeed of 400 mph, and its typical acceleration on take-off is up to 80mph before the wheels leave the ground. Mike Cross, Jaguar Land Rover’s Chief Vehicle Integrity Engineer, was at the wheel of the All-New Range Rover Sport, a 5.0litre supercharged V8 model with 510hp on tap. Even though grass is one of the most challenging terrains on which to gain traction for both acceleration and braking, he managed to clock a top speed of 130 mph before braking for the mid-race turn.
For those disinclined to make the long journey south, there is the inevitable video which can be accessed at www.FortyOneSix.com and watched between UK sporting achievements which seem to be rolling in thick and fast.
The event was filmed with a crew of 35 and 16 cameras. The “race” was repeated several times but the result was always the same – the excellent Spitfire was beaten by a whisker.
SCRAMBLE: A 1945 Supermarine Spitfire raced the new Range Rover Sport on a grass airstrip to kick off the Goodwood Festival of Speed.