New land speed racing documentary airs tonight
The documentary film “Breaking Barriers” races through a century of automotive straight-line speed in one hour, with special concentration on three generations of land-speed racers: the early dry lakes runs of the SoCal Speed Shop as recalled by founder Alex Xydias; Craig Breedlove’s remarkable two-way average of 600 mph at Bonneville in 1965; and a 270-mph blast on an airport runway by tuner John Hennessey’s team in Florida.
Interviews with all three are framed by archival footage of those who came before them, starting in Europe more than a century ago and moving across the Atlantic and over America to the deserts and dry lakes of the West. We seeLa Jamais Contente’s first run at over a mile a minute outside Paris in 1899; Frank Lockhart’s tragic 200-mph crash on the beach at Daytona in 1928 (which might be a bit much for younger viewers; it comes early in the show); early runs at the dry lakes of California and later records at Bonneville. There are also interviews of current land speed record holder Andy Green, who broke the speed of sound on Black Rock Desert in Nevada; Roger Penske, whose teams are sponsored by film-funder Shell; and even some automotive journalists. The show is introduced by singer Tim McGraw.
The main focus is on the three racers – Xydias, Breedlove and Hennessey – but their stories are hung in the framework of land speed racing history. It’s compelling stuff.
“You can’t tell American history without telling the history of the automobile,” said producer Ari Palitz at the movie’s Los Angeles premiere.
“You think of people in whose footsteps you want to follow, and these are the men,” said director Jacob Rosenberg. “To live in their moments is to realize our individual potential.”
Realize yours tonight, May 7, 2014, at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. CT on the National Geographic Channel (check local listings).