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Speed limits (and derestrictions) around the world

File picture: Philipp Katzenberger / Unsplash.

File picture: Philipp Katzenberger / Unsplash.

Published Jan 25, 2022


By: Double Apex

There’s been a story doing the rounds online of late about a businessman who conducted a top speed run in a Bugatti Chiron on a section of German autobahn. This got me thinking about top speeds and road behaviour.

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Have you heard the story about the AC Cobra Coupe that did 298km/h on a public motorway in the UK? It was 1964 and the team was testing their car for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans. There were no speed limits on motorways in the UK at the time so the team wasn’t breaking any laws.

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The story of driver Jack Sears ‘achievement’ was widely reported at the time. The team was careful as was the driver. They conducted the run just after sunrise when there was very little traffic. Additionally, Sears shared that he slowed for other road users. Albeit slowed to ‘just’ 200 km/h…

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A few years ago Sears said it was common practice for teams of the era to use the public road for such activities as no racetrack had a straight as long as that at La Sarthe. Though he admitted that he kept a low profile after the incident to let things blow over.

However, it is often misreported that Sears legendary top speed run, the highest on a UK road, was the reason speed limits of 70 mph (110km/h) were introduced in Old Blighty. Imagine doing nearly 300km/h with other traffic around.

Aussie (no) rules

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While many people/petrolheads know about Germany’s derestricted autobahns, there is another road that was devoid of speed limits, and in the most unlikely place: Australia. The Stuart Highway runs through the middle of the island nation in a north/south direction.

The northern section of this 2 720 km motorway, from Alice Springs to Darwin had no speed limit. Authorities had a simple rule: behave like an adult and we will treat you like one. Police would happily wave at you doing 200 and plenty on a bright clear day, but they’d pull you over for doing 120 km/h if it was raining.

It was an uncharacteristic approach by the usually draconian Aussies. But, of course, that changed in 2007 when a 130 km/h restriction was instituted. For about a year in 2016 authorities lifted the limit on one small section but it has since been reinstated.

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Derestricted auuutttoooooobaaaaahhhhhnnnnn

This brings us back to our friend in Germany. Deutschland has long been known as the land of fast cars and roads on which to enjoy them. Many people, wrongly, believe that once you merge onto a highway it’s a flat out blast to the horizon. This isn’t the case.

Read the full story on Double Apex

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