Ray Baumann remembers his brain screaming not to do this. Not to smash his tuff XB Coupe to smithereens and mash himself into a bloody mess. But, as you can see from the photos of Ray’s world record ramp jump attempt, he still did. He still moon-launched himself and his nitrous-Clevoed Coupe at 115mph, re-discovered gravity from five floors up, and rode out the mother of all crashes back on earth.
First published in the September 1994 issue of Street Machine
Ray’s mental reject light started glowing when he hit the OzNos button part way down the quarter mile Kalgoorlie-Boulder airstrip. His brain was on fire, screaming at him to back off as he hit the bottom of the 70 metre long, three metre high ramp. After that, Ray just saw blue sky — plenty of it — the ground rushing up to meet him, and heaps of painful chaos that broke his left leg in two places, badly bruised his kidneys and just about everything else.
“I love the thrill of a crash, the unknown”
“By the time the crash stopped, the only thing I could do was groan between breaths,” says the former Kiwi drag racer and speedway driver, who now heads his own stunt driving team. “I remember thinking when I first left the ramp, ‘hey, this car is heavy’. I could feel the weight of the car throwing me forwards. I could feel the pressure behind me and, in a split second, the car nose dived. I knew it was going to hurt.
“The first hit was the stunner but I remember clearly thinking ‘it isn’t over yet’. It seemed to take forever for the second hit. I was conscious and I knew that I was still powering along and getting hurt.”
What sort of guy takes three years to build a very streetable XB Coupe, then launches it into a huge, potentially lethal crash? Like a junkie, Ray’s hooked on what he’s doing. “I started racing when I was 15 but I learned pretty soon that, for me, it was more fun to crash than race. Some people take drugs, which I don’t, and some people like getting drunk out of their minds. I love the thrill of a crash; the thrill of the unknown. I can’t get enough of it.”
When they hear about his world record attempt gone wrong – and especially when they see the video that still gets a regular airing on Perth television — a lot of people reckon Ray Baumann doesn’t have a brain at all. But when you learn how determined and calculating he is, you reach the opposite conclusion. Thirty one year old Baumann has a brain, all right, a sharp one.
Ray says he knew as a kid that he wanted to be a stunt driver. But, believe it or not, his first shot at the 11 year old world ramp jumping record was the first time he’d launched a car off a ramp at speed.
The world record Baumann chose to chase was set by a woman, Jacqueline De Creed, who leapt a ’67 Ford Mustang off a ramp at England’s Santa Pod Raceway and flew 70.73 metres, landing right side up. Twenty people have been killed since trying to better the mark. Ray actually equalled the record in this attempt. But he crashed into the 40th of 46 cars, and the Supercoupe went onto its side and into a sickening series of catherine wheels.
Check the photos and you’ll see that the front of the car snapped off during the crash. It was supposed to happen because, believe it or not, Ray says he likes to keep his stunts “simple and safe”. Ray started his record run more than three years before lift-off.
He bought a $250 junked XB Coupe body because it was all he could afford, because he’s always loved the shape, and because he wanted to try to break the world record in an obviously Australian car.
He then set to work building the cage that eventually saved his life. He painstakingly cut and shaped the lot himself from 60mm OD seamed tube with 3mm walls, using only a hacksaw and four-inch angle grinder. Much of the cage’s design was based on NASCAR rules, plus his own theories. Ray then rebuilt the complete floor area and the firewall in 50mm x 50mm box section tubing.
“The idea was to keep me inside a solid cage, with the firewall and the flooring extra strong to stop the motor coming back into me on impact,” Ray says. The car was lowered to reduce drag during its run-up.
But the car was heavy, and it needed a strong engine to get it up, up and away. That’s where engine builder and drag racer Peter Pisconeri, of Mainline Motors, Waroona, came in. “I had a few people in mind for a team I wanted to helpme, and Peter was one,” Ray says. Peter says he got swept up by Ray’s enthusiasm. “I’ve never met anyone so dedicated to what they were doing,” he says.
The result was a Cleveland that’d make most street machiners drool. “We needed an engine that would rev sweetly to 7000 revs, accept a lot of nitrous boost and reach 110-115mph in just over a quarter mile,” he says. “We were looking at something with close to 500hp.”
The impressive internal hardware checklist went like this: 4MA crank, shot peened and magnafluxed rods with ARP rod bolts, floated gudgeons with Teflon buttons to keep the Sealed Power forged pistons sturdy in the bore, high volume oil pump, oil restrictor kit, open-chamber 2V heads, 4V stainless valves, chrome moly pushrods, retainers and collets, Isky valve springs, Sig Erson Hi-Flow 1H cam, Holley 750 double pumper High Performer.
Then, for the icing on the cake, OzNos supremo Rob Madden kicked in with an MN OOO Top Gear Progressive kit with a theoretical 300hp punch. The engine was set back 24 inches to take some weight out of the nose.
“We knew the engine was strong because Ray did ‘a burnout one day in third gear on the spot,” Peter says. “We took it to Ravenswood during testing and got 14 seconds flat at 98mph in second gear after Ray backed off at three-quarter track because we were having trouble with third in the C4.” Peter was also instrumental in getting Mandurah Automatics to set up and sort the C4.
With typical attention to detail, Ray approached a mathematics professor to help him calculate the necessary approach speed and angle of take-off. “As soon as I left the ramp, she nose-dived sooner than we had expected. We knew the front end would be heavy, but…”
When the car landed on the side-by-side wrecks below, Ray’s leg was smashed against the box section around the engine. This hadn’t been padded, because the car was set up for a front-on crash, but actually landed on the passenger side. He spent two days in hospital, eight weeks in a full leg cast, a month in a half cast, and, months after, he’s still sore.
Ray’s looking at another attempt in March, next year, in a Porsche 911! “I’m a V8 man and I’d love to have another go in a Holden or a Falcon, but the Porsche’s got the engine in the back, which means the nose should stay up. I’m not out there to kill myself. But the way I see it, for me to stay at home and do a normal job, I’m dying anyway.”