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Bluebird has ‘nothing to prove’ following successful speed tests

The restored Bluebird K7, which crashed killing Donald Campbell in 1967, takes to the water for the first time in more than 50 years off the Isle of Bute on the west coast of Scotland (David Cheskin/PA) Photo: PA Wire/PA Images

Record-breaking hydroplane Bluebird has “nothing to prove” after being resurrected for speed tests 51 years after it crashed, killing pilot Donald Campbell, the project leader has said.

The Bluebird K7 has hit speeds of around 150mph during tests in Scotland but Bill Smith said any attempts to break speed records would be “incredibly foolish” given the boat’s history.

Campbell died aged 45 on Coniston Water in the Lake District in January 1967 when the boat, travelling at more than 300mph, flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted to beat his own water speed record.

Donald Campbell piloting Bluebird before the disaster on Coniston Water Credit: PA

The restored hydroplane, which was recovered from the lake in 2001, has been undergoing tests at speed on Loch Fad on the Isle of Bute.

Asked if any world record speed attempts were planned, Mr Smith said: “That would be incredibly foolish.

“You saw what happened last time. This vessel had held the world water speed record seven times.

“It’s the most successful contender in history and, after a 300mph accident and 34 years of immersion, she’s back.

“Anything to prove? Nah.”

He has spent 22 years restoring the boat, which has a new jet engine, along with volunteers but said the history was not at the forefront of his mind when she re-entered the water for the first time in more than half a century at the weekend.

Bill Smith carrying out the early stages of restoration on Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7 Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

He said: “I just wanted to know that she wasn’t filling up with water and about to land on the bottom with her tail fin sticking above the surface.

“That’s all I wanted to see. I couldn’t wait to get it back out again.

“The expectation and plan was just to see how it was performing. For all it’s a wallowing, ponderous blue whale, when she says go she she’s a pretty violent machine.

“She looks pretty happy at that speed (150mph).”

He hinted that the historic boat could become a regular visitor to the island, once this month’s test runs are over.

“I’d come back and do it every year,” he said.

“It’s like going on holiday with my mates and bringing a boat along for a laugh.”

Spectators looked on as the hydroplane sped down the loch, following ear-splitting tests of the jet engine.

Lead pilot Ted Walsh endured the canopy bursting off at 150mph earlier in the week, which he wryly said was “pretty exciting”.

He said archive footage has enabled the team to mirror Campbell’s progress.

“It’s pretty interesting to see the boat is peforming in a pretty similar way to when Donald Campbell had it.”

Donald Campbell in 1958 Credit: PA

Campbell’s body, with his race suit still intact, was pulled from the Cumbria lake along with the wreckage in 2001.

Having broken eight world speed records on water and land in the 1950s and 1960s, Campbell was attempting to break his own water speed record of 276mph when he was killed.