Did you know?
Malcolm Campbell promised to return to Verneuk Pan in a ‘monster car’ – but never came back.
In Afrikaans, the word ‘verneuk’ (pronounced 'fur-ni-uk') means to cheat, or deceive. So when you arrive at a spot in the Northern Cape called Verneuk Pan, you wonder just who was cheated or deceived here.
It all looks so peaceful and flat, with undisturbed horizons and an incredibly smooth surface.
And although the little towns of Brandvlei and Kenhardt call Verneuk Pan their ‘neighbourhood’ it is, in truth, in the middle of nowhere.
All of the above has made Verneuk Pan an ideal location for (a) feature films needing an arid background and (b) the breaking of a land-speed record. Many men in fast cars have come here to fulfil their dreams – often with disastrous results.
The most famous of them all, however, was Captain Malcolm Campbell. This meticulous man who left nothing up to chance finally ended up settling on Verneuk Pan as the location of his 1929 speed attempt in his Napier-Arrol-Astor race car called Bluebird.
After flying over the area, Capt. Campbell acclaimed: ‘Verneuk Pan is the most wonderful stretch of flat country I have ever seen.’ No-one had told him about the ‘tyre biters’ – those dreadfully sharp rubber-cutting stones that lie strewn about. But he was to find out.
The Campbell party – a full racing team and family – arrived at the Cape Town docks in the Carnarvon Castle with 56 crates of spares, more than 1500 litres of aviation fuel, a light airplane and the massive aero-engined Bluebird.
Once their camp was established at Verneuk Pan, they were the object of much local and national scrutiny and speculation, from locals and media alike.
The 25-km track was carefully prepared and much water was trucked in to smooth the surface even further. Campbell was aiming to break the land-speed record of the time: 333km/h.
Meanwhile, over in Daytona, USA, another legendary speedster, Henry Segrave, had clocked an incredible 371 km/h, leaving Malcolm Campbell and his team dispirited.
Nevertheless, he went out in the Bluebird and rode the Verneuk Pan track, shredding eight expensive tyres on those little rocks in the process. But he did succeed in breaking the pre-Segrave record, clocking a respectable 349km/h.
The good news about Campbell is that 2 years later, he set a new world land-speed record at Daytona – and was knighted for his trouble...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Kenhardt Tourist Information
Tel: +27 (0) 54 651 6500
Tel: +27 (0) 54 651 0022
Tel: +27 (0) 54 651 0052
Verneukpan Cottage, Kenhardt
Tel: 27 (0) 54 651 0052