There's a lot of trial and error in getting to the record. Test driver Don Wales wrote this in the team's diary on July 31, about early efforts at Edwards AFB after the steam car was shipped over from its earlier testing venue in the U.K.: "Our first run was purely a rolling resistance test of the surface. The car was very slow to move away and acceleration was sluggish. We only had 90 seconds of fuel on board (the record runs will have 2 1/2 minutes). The car peaked at about 70mph before the burners switched off and I coasted for approximately a mile before coming to a stop. This was good news and demonstrated to the team that the surface of the lakebed is less 'sticky' than the Tarmac we are used to at Thorney."
Wrote Wales on August 5: "Today had to be the worst day for the team's morale as we had high expectations of a good run. There was a huge full moon setting over the lakebed as we arrived. I was strapped in to the car and waited for it fire up, which she did with a sense of purpose, but I could feel and see the burners cutting in and out intermittently. We had a blocked miser, which hasn't happened since Thorney Island. After carrying out several successful runs, it was hugely disappointing for us all...
"We then had another issue to contend with, battling a very strong and hot wind. We took down all the tents to save them from being blown away; the mechanics were working without shade or shelter, which was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. It was a tough day."
But there's been good news along the way, too. Wrote Wales on Thursday: "I am pleased to report that the car ran beautifully this morning. We have been carrying out low speed tests to check Jerry's software modifications and today were one of the last ones. We tested the slam acceleration which still needs a little more "tweaking", but reached in excess of 95mph again with just 90 second burn time. Tomorrow we are upping the burn time to 2 minutes so we should exceed 100mph and use approximately half of the track that we will have available come attempt time."
For more, see "Photos: Firing up the British Steam Car."