11th World Human Powered Speed Challenge report

Whittingham defends title; Buatois sets new world record

The Arrow Hawk machine in action during the 11th World Human Powered Speed Challenge

Sam Whittingham and Barbara Buatois successfully defended their respective titles as the fastest man and women in the world at the 11th annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC) held from September 13-18 in Battle Mountain, Nevada, USA.


Whittingham won the men’s event with the fastest speed of 81.506mph that was set inside a two hundred metre trap while riding the Varna Diablo 3. It was his fourth fastest time recorded to date. He set the 82.819mph world record last year.

Buatois set a new world record in the women’s event reaching 75.687mph riding the Varna Tempest, the same bike Whittingham used when he set the world record.

The WHPSC is sanctioned under the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA). The fastest riders are given an eight-kilometre flying start toward a 200 metre trap on SR 305 where their speeds are calculated. This year there were a total of 23 racers from the US, Canada, The Netherlands, France, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

“It was a success in that it happened and there were many personal bests,” said Al Krause, Race Director of WHPSC. “A new world record was generated. We have been working for years gathering data and writing a grant for the road surface that is out there now. We formed a relationship between ourselves, the community and the state acquiring the grant for the road and keeping it safe for our use. We are looking forward to growing the event now.”

Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) provided a federal grand to renew SR 305 last year and it is now considered the smoothest surface in the world. The highway was not only renewed but completely ground out, refilled and topped with a fresh new surface that is free of centre line rumble strips.

“On a bike, especially on one of these bikes, rumble strips could be lethal, like putting glass down on the road,” Krause said. “It was quite the drama at the end because the truck that grinds those things into the asphalt was at the other end of the highway headed north and it was capable of 11 miles per day. It was like the monster was coming to our section of road on the pavement and we had to literally call and talk to NDOT to get it to stop. The part that we use for racing has been waved.”

SR 305 will get more use during future events because organizers moved the qualifying rounds from a nearby frontage road to the championship site. It will allow participants to compete on the IHPVA legal stretch of road and qualifying those times can be counted as a record.

WHPSC switched from an invitational event to an open one that allows people from all over the world to enter the qualifying rounds. Krause hopes that the change will bring in larger fields and increase the economic impact that the race has on the surrounding community.


“We’ve expanded the opportunities by opening the race,” Krause said. “We set the stage for our next big sponsor and that will make it a little easier to produce the event, improve safety, take care of our volunteers and bring up the quality of the event. We’ve created a potential to increase our economic impact and I think this sport is on the threshold of getting more main stream riders.”