Nokian Tyres sponsors the world record for the fastest car on two wheels

The world record for the fastest car on two wheels, 186.269 km/h (115.759 mph), was set in Finland at the end of August. This wild world record was set when Nokian Tyres’ product development, Vianor’s competent pit crew and well-known stunt driver Vesa Kivimäki combined their strengths.

The sun was up on a nearly cloudless August sky. This was the day that we had been looking forward to: One of Finland’s premier stunt drivers, Vesa Kivimäki, was about to set a new world record for the fastest car on two wheels.

The previous record was set 19 years ago – the Swedish Göran Eliason drove on two wheels at a speed of 181.25 km/h (112.62 mph) already in 1997. 

Kivimäki had been thinking about the record attempt for a long time and he had spent years practising for it. 
– I have 15 years solid experience in driving on two wheels. I have previously made two attempts to break the record for the fastest car on two wheels, but have not been successful, Kivimäki explains.

However, he soon understood that breaking the record would require exceptionally durable tires and a team that could perform adjustments and possible repairs on the car and tires very quickly. 
– This is why I contacted Nokian Tyres and Vianor in late 2015 in order to set up a cooperation, Kivimäki explains.

Nokian Tyres and Vianor were happy to work together with Kivimäki.
– It felt great to be taken seriously.

Watching the weather – the hunt for the perfect conditions

Once the winning trio had been assembled, attempting the record required optimal weather conditions. No rain was allowed and the road needed to be dry. If any rain should fall, it would immediately need to be followed by sunshine, which is not self-evident in Finland. The driving surface had to be extremely dry and level.
– The weather had to be just right for a demanding attempt like this. We had to postpone our planned date several times due to rain and storms. We kept watching Finnish and international weather services, but even forecasts that seemed certain in the evening could change completely during the night. At one point, setting a date seemed almost impossible, Kivimäki explains.

Finally, a week was agreed on when all the parties to the record attempt would be ready to act as soon as the opportunity presented itself. The personnel from Seinäjoki Airport also joined the weather service watch. All they needed now was the right kind of day.

It finally arrived on Wednesday, 31 August 2016.

When durability counts

In addition to optimal weather and a skilled driver, reaching top speeds requires a lot from the tires. Especially when two palm-sized patches are the only contact with the road. 
– When driving on two wheels, you can easily reach 150 kilometres per hour momentarily on any high-quality tires. Increasing the speed beyond this and maintaining it, however, requires a lot more from the car and the tires. Tire sidewall wear is at a completely different level at speeds of 180 to 190 kilometres per hour, which are the world record speeds, Kivimäki explains.

"Tire sidewall wear is at a completely different level at speeds of 180 to 190 kilometres per hour, which are the world record speeds."
Vesa Kivimäki, Stunt driver

In order to break the record, the vehicle needed special tires that were as durable as possible. Nokian Tyres solved the problem by using a special structure combined with Aramid Sidewall technology. The secret behind Aramid Sidewall technology is the extremely strong aramid fibre that is also used in the aviation and defence industries. The tires offer safety and protection for surprising situations, since their sidewall structure is exceptionally resistant to wear and cuts. 
– The passion and creative madness required for this world record attempt are also descriptive of Nokian Tyres’ product development. We need to try new things and test our limits. Finding out how the tire structures perform at the outer limits allows us to develop safer, more durable tires. This also serves regular drivers, says Matti Morri, Technical Customer Service Manager for Nokian Tyres. 

Tuned vehicle, functional pit stop

The car that Kivimäki used for his record was a 2012 BMW 330 that had been modified in order to allow for driving on two wheels and to ensure safety. The car’s differential had been locked by welding and the shock absorbers, springs and spring ratios had been modified for driving on two wheels. The car's power had been updated to 400 horsepower and its interior had been removed in order to minimise the fire hazard. A bucket seat had been fitted for the driver, and special seat belts and a roll cage had been installed for protection. Diesel fuel was used for fire safety – in case of an accident, diesel is less likely to ignite than gasoline.

"I could have rolled the car a hundred times and got away with minor shakes."
Vesa Kivimäki, Stunt driver

– I could have rolled the car a hundred times and got away with minor shakes, Kivimäki explains. 

During practice, the speed was increased in steps in order to make the driver aware of what the tires can do. This was done in order to ensure safety. 
– I broke a tire on purpose at 120 km/h and 170 km/h by doing several consecutive passes. The best way to determine the durability of a tire is to break it, and Nokian Tyres agreed, Kivimäki reveals.

In addition to the customised vehicle and tires, the new world record was made possible by Vianor’s expert pit crew that took care of the record-breaking car and its tires. 
– Since we had to make two runs within one hour, the world record would have been only a dream without Vianor’s competent personnel. It was of utmost importance that we could change tires quickly between passes and I was continuously updated on their condition, Kivimäki praises.

"Since we had to make two runs within one hour, the world record would have been only a dream without Vianor’s competent personnel."
Vesa Kivimäki, Stunt driver

Vianor’s people and the mobile pit stop equipment made it possible to fit tyres on rims, balance them and fill them with nitrogen in only a few minutes. The action was reminiscent of a Grand Prix pit stop. 
– For once, I could simply sit and drive, Kivimäki says laughingly.

However, the record left him hungry. 
– My vision is that we can break 200 km/h (124 mph) on two wheels.

What, where, when?

The world record for the fastest car on two wheels was set on the runway of Seinäjoki Airport on 31 August 2016. The record was run on a 2-kilometre long, 50-metre wide track that was run both ways. The distance used for the average speed measurement was 100 metres. The average speeds were 190.074 km/h (118.107 mph) for the first run and 182.463 km/h (113.377 mph) for the second run. The new world record speed of 186.269 km/h (115.759 mph) is the average of these two results.

The new world record was set by stunt driver Vesa Kivimäki. The car had tyres with Nokian Tyres Aramid Sidewall technology. Vianor’s pit crew managed the service for the car and tyres on the world record day.

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Guinness World Records has defined specific rules for the fastest car on two wheels. The car needs to be mass produced, not a prototype manufactured for the record attempt. Within one hour, the car must drive both ways through speed measurement gates that are located one hundred metres apart, and the world record is the average of these two measurements.