By: Mark Vaughn, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 7, 2014) — "Breaking Barriers," a one-hour special tracking a century of man’s assault on automotive straightline speed — including footage of the first mile-a-minute run in 1899 by La Jamais Contente on Michelin tires — is scheduled to air tonight on National Geographic Channel.
While the special tracks the speed record attempts over a century, it concentrates 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 see La 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; early runs at the dry lakes of California; and later records at Bonneville.
There are also interviews with 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.
“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.”
The special is scheduled to air tonight at 8 p.m., EST, on National Geographic Channel (check local listings).