Landspeed record: Emirates Team NZ gear up for weekend attempt, as narrow weather window opens

Even before their first real shot at a wind-power landspeed record, Emirates Team NZ are under time pressure to achieve their lofty goal, before they must return to the water.

With weather conditions at South Australia's Lake Gairdner finally turning for the better, pilot Glenn Ashby is preparing take a crack at the world mark of 202.9kph this weekend, with an official judge now on site to verify the attempt. 

The quest for speed has been a childhood dream for Ashby, who has achieved that goal as a world champion and America's Cup-winning sailor, but the record so close, he is keenly aware that the opportunity will be short-lived.

"You probably want to ask my boss, Grant Dalton, when the time's going to be up," Ashby told AM. "We are actually trying to have things squared by Christmas time, so we really only have a window over the next 10-12 days, before it gets too hot over the Christmas break.

"In January, it gets superwarm here - over 40 degrees a lot of the time. It's superhot in the cockpit as it is, so we're really narrowing right down to our available opportunities.

"If we can't get it done over the next couple of weeks, we'll have to make a decision on what we do next year."

In recent days, Ashby has had specially designed landyacht Horonuku over 200kph, learning how to handle the craft at top speeds.

"The faster you go, like in any electric or petrol-powered vehicle, the drag has a huge impact," he said. "The aerodynamic efficiency of the craft really comes into its own.

Glenn Ashby drives Horonuku at Lake Gairdner
Glenn Ashby drives Horonuku at Lake Gairdner. Photo credit: Team NZ

"We produce about 1.7 tonnes of sideforce on the wing, but only about 250kg of thrust, so there's a huge amount of sideforce that we need to react through the tyres on the surface.

"Getting the forces to balance out and be efficient is what will ultimately give us the topend speed."

Ashby admits just breaking the record won't be enough.

"We don't want to just roll over that, we want to set the bar a bit higher.

"We've got a lot to keep working on and obviously, the conditions play a huge part. We need a dry surface, but we need plenty of wind as well, so getting those two to line up - and us being on the course at the right time - has proven to be a challenge."

Join us over the weekend for a livestream of Team NZ's landspeed record attempt

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