Looks like Luc Costermans (a.k.a. the Blind Belgian) is no longer the world's fastest sight-challenged driver. The latest person to snatch the world land speed record for the blind is South Africa's Hein Wagner. Wagner, who has been blind since birth, pushed a borrowed Mercedes-Benz SL65 Black Series to 322.5 km/h, just a tick over 200 mph. That puts him in the Guinness Book of World Records, ahead of Costermans, and it's not the first record for Wagner, though.
This is the same man who became the first South African to set a world land speed record, sighted or not, back in 2005 when he pushed a Maserati to 167 MPH. The deposed champion, Costermans, can take consolation in being the first blind man to break the 300 km/h barrier. Wagner himself might have to be content with being the first to break 200 mph, as previous record holder Mike Newman hopes to take an 1,800-hp Keating TKR supercar well past that figure later this month. In fact Newman is going after the overall production car speed record of 257 mph currently held by the SSC Ultimate Aero.
For now at least, the record belongs to Wagner. His record run was achieved on the runway at the Upington International Airport in Northern Cape, South Africa, with copilot Ray Wakefield of Speedrecord SA riding shotgun. Wagner has always had an adventurous streak, having previously run the New York Marathon (in 4:27!), skydived (skydove?) from 10,000 feet, completed the Construction du Cap bike race solo, competed in the Cape-to-Rio yacht race, and he has even climbed the ten highest peaks in the Western Cape. Wagner is raising money for his Vision Trust organization, which makes technology more accessible to the blind.
So what's up next for Wagner? He plans to fly a Boeing from London to Johannesburg -- with passengers. It was probably hard enough to find one passenger for the drive in the Benz, getting a full load of passengers for the flight might take a bit more persuading. But what the heck, it's for a good cause, right? Thanks for the tip, Dean!