The car Jesse piloted was powered by a 9.8L Chevrolet V8 running on pure hydrogen gasEnlarge Photo
James, who is married to actress Sandra Bullock (who starred in Speed, somewhat fittingly), claimed to have broken the world land-speed record for a hydrogen powered car June 16 in the Mojave desert. Jesse's speed of 199.7mph (321km/h) was documented by the Southern California Timing Association and beat the previous record holder, the BMW H2R, which previously held the land-speed record for an H2 car of 185mph (298km/h). However, the BMW record was FIA-certified, and the people who keep track of the world speed records aren't taking James' claim lightly.
Louise Noeth, proprietor of a site that, among other things, compiles only official FIA-sanctioned world speed records, said of James' speed record attempt: "Mr. James efforts count for absolutely nothing on the world motorsports stage and amount to little more than a self-promoting 'TV racer' PR stunt since he chose to ignore the sport's sanctioning rules that have applied to all records certified for the past 80 years."
James' camp hasn't yet released any counter-argument.
The vehicle he used was a 1960s relic that has been used for attempts on land-speed records before, most notably by Dees-Milodin Engineering, which named the contraption the Streamliner for fairly obvious reasons.
This time around, James rebuilt the vehicle from the ground up, replacing its Chrysler engine with a twin-turbocharged 9.8L V8 engine from Chevrolet. The engine uses hydrogen gas, rather than liquid hydrogen, and considering the old 1960s Chrysler-engined Streamliner was able to hit 237mph at the Bonneville salt flats without hydrogen, the 199.2mph speed claimed by James should have been easy going for the old girl.
James, who has done some amazingly dangerous stunts for his show already, told AutoWeek that he was not even scared of doing the run - but if it was us barreling down a Southern Californian salt flat at world-record speeds with two tanks of hydrogen gas pressurized to 10,00psi sitting behind us we think we'd be just a little bit apprehensive.
The show was filmed June 16 and will air as the season one finale on Sunday, August 9 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on Spike TV.