Speed record in sight for Spirit of Australia II and Bluebird K7 comes home

Warby Motosport is pushing ever closer to a new outright world water-speed record with its jet-propelled Spirit of Australia II.

The driver of Spirit of Australia II (and team boss) Dave Warby is looking to better the present world water-speed record of 317.59mph, set by his late father Ken Warby MBE back in 1978 in the original Spirit of Australia.

On paper the new boat, which was designed and built before Ken passed away in February 2023, stands every chance of going faster. It has around 50% more power thanks to a more modern Rolls-Royce Orpheus 803 jet engine from a former Italian Air Force fighter plane, and more sophisticated aerodynamics and construction techniques.

Ken designed and built the original Spirit of Australia in a shed in the family’s backyard – the first and only time the unlimited speed record has ever been set in a boat built and driven by the same person.

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Now his son David is closing in on the record, having already topped 260mph during high speed trials on Blowering Reservoir in New South Wales – the same venue where his father set the record 46 years ago.

Spirit of Australia II is said to have a theoretical maximum speed of 370mph but tests were cut short in November last year when a bird strike at over 200mph damaged the fragile turbine blades.

No new attempts will now be made until the end of the Australian summer in April when activity on the reservoir reduces as autumn sets in.

Bluebird K7

As one new boat looks to set a record, an older boat is on the move as Bluebird K7 – Donald Campbell’s record breaking craft – has been returned to Coniston after a lengthy dispute between the Bluebird Project and the Ruskin Museum was finally settled.

The restored boat will now be put on display in the Bluebird Wing, an extension to the museum that was purpose-built to house it over 14 years ago but has lain empty of its star exhibit since it opened in 2010.

The delay stems from a long-running dispute between the team that found, recovered and restored the badly damaged remains of the boat, which crashed at over 300mph in January 1967 killing its driver Donald Campbell, and the Ruskin Museum, which claimed to have been gifted it by the Campbell Family Heritage Trust.

In all Bluebird K7 set seven world water-speed records between 1955 and 1964 but crashed while Campbell was trying to raise his previous 276mph record to over 300mph.


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