Land Speed Record Mentor

A true master of terrain, Ari has taken on tarmac, sand, dirt and ice to emerge as an icon of the motorsport world. Ari started out in the world of motorsports in 1970, making his first appearance in the World Rally Championship in 1974. Between 1980 and 1985 he secured ten victories in the World Rally Championship series.

He suffered life-threatening injuries during the Rally Argentina when his car somersaulted at 120mph, and he had to take an 18-month break from the sport. But he came back in a blaze of glory in
1987, winning the Dakar Rally four times in five years.

HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT TAKING ON THIS CHALLENGE?
It was a very famous record made by a legendary man, and it was exciting because it hasn’t been beaten for so many years. It was in a beautiful setting with a world famous actor. So I was very excited to take on this new challenge with this other legendary man.

WHY WAS THE LAND SPEED ATTEMPT SO TOUGH?
You think because it’s a long, straight beach that it’s safe and easy. But it isn’t. The car can flip up like an aeroplane when it’s going that fast. Luckily we had a very heavy, stable Bentley. 180mph is a very high speed and Idris does not come from a motoring background. You need experience and confidence to do it because when things go wrong, you need to be able to respond.

HOW DID IDRIS RESPOND TO THE CHALLENGE?
Very well. We started off driving on tarmac so he could become confident with the speed. Then we persuaded a farmer to let us use his land to practise on softer ground, which I think surprised the cows a little bit! It was somehow unconventional but Idris was up for anything. Most land speed records are done on tarmac or hard sand in the desert like Salt Lake in Utah. But to do it on wet sand, which is soft and moves, is a real challenge.

WHAT ARE HIS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
Idris has a million other things to do in his life and he didn’t have time to get enough practise in. He was like anyone who dreams of being a good driver, but nobody has ever given him proper instruction. He was sitting far too far from the steering wheel, for example, and his arms were totally straight. You can’t drive properly like that so we changed his position and that transformed his driving. He had a lot of quiet confidence. He was in the right frame of mind. It meant a lot to him.

WERE THERE ANY MISHAPS OR ACCIDENTS?
When we were practising in the cow field, Idris accelerated too much, and the Bentley is a very heavy vehicle to drive on damp grass. The car would not stop at all, and we were heading towards a fence with barbed wire. I was shouting, ‘Brake, brake, brake!’ I ended up grabbing the steering wheel, but we hit a fence. I don’t think the man at Bentley was very pleased when he received it back with barbed wire scrapes all down the side!

WHAT STRENGTHS DOES A RECORD BREAKER HAVE: DID IDRIS HAVE THOSE QUALITIES?
For this kind of record, it’s almost more about the psychology. Once you have a certain technical competence, it’s about having the right frame of mind. You have to think, ‘I’m not a passenger in this car, I’m the master of this car’. And Idris had that, definitely.

DID YOUR MENTORING INVOLVE PSYCHOLOGICAL HELP AS WELL AS TECHNICAL HELP?
Of course. I told him how good he was all the time!

COULD IDRIS TAKE UP THE SPORT COMPETITIVELY?
I’m sure we can think of something!