Aussies team up for new world speed record Penrite Blog Post

Posted on 15 Feb 2017


Back in the late 1970’s Newcastle local, mechanical engineer and former BHP worker Ken Warby decided to have a go at one of the most coveted and dangerous world records of them all.

Upon seeing Donald Campbell’s fatal attempt at 300 miles per hour in 1967 in his iconic bluebird race boat, Ken Warby was inspired to set a new world water record for Australia. Ken would spend the next several years designing, building and racing his boat ‘Spirit of Australia’ in search of the new world record. Always one to blaze a new path, Ken more affectionately known ‘Warby’ built the boat at his family home in Sydney.

After a first attempts in 1977 setting a new Australia record, Warby finally managed to set a new world record on October 8th 1978 of 317.60MPH / 511.11KMH at Blowering dam NSW,  becoming the  1st person in history to beat the 300 miles an hour mark, a feat  which has remains unbeaten . “Not bad for a boat that didn’t even have a seat belt” Ken remarked, adding “No pitching, she just went like a bullet, it was the easiest boat I’ve ever had to steer”  

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Fast forward 40 years, Warby’s son David, who fondly looks back on his childhood growing up around boats and having a dad that was a world record holder. It was no coincidence that David became a boat builder and racer in his own right. “Racing and boats are in my DNA, remarked David “Dads in his late 70’s and he’s still racing”.

Over the past 3 or so years, father and son along with some old faces from the original record have been busy building a new boat ‘Spirit of Australia II’. The aim is to have the boat finished in time for the 40th anniversary of Warby’s 1978 world record and to set a new world record with David at the wheel.

Ken who now lives in the USA comes home 3-4 times a year to help his son David with the build. Ken added “This time we really wanted the record to be a family experience, that’s why we thought Penrite oil are a natural fit with us. They are an Australian family owned and made company.” “Both Penrite and ourselves want to promote Australian ingenuity and achievements. Having them onboard as an oil and lubricant sponsor is a real help to us as we can tap into their technical knowledge and ensure we have a real crack at this record

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Jarrod Harding Penrite Corporate Partnership Manager and Director of Motorsport commented “Penrite Oil is thrilled to be part of such a great piece of Australian sporting history”  “The quest for speed and the family connection with both Ken and David is perfect fit for Penrite. Our Penrite 10 tenths racing range is all about pushing products to their limits.”

And what better way for Ken’s 40 year old world record to be broken, but at the hands of his own son.“ Harding added

The Spirit of Australia II will be ready for water testing in late April, with the record attempt around the 40th Anniversary in November.


Click Here to watch Ken and Dave Warby talk about water speed record and their preparations of the new boat Spirit of Australia II. Filmed and Produced by Dean Osland for the Newcastle Herald

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