A British car that is predicted to smash through the world and built to go 1000 mph has completed its first open tests.
The Bloodhound SSC has been intended to achieve 1,000mph and is something like a car combined with a fighter jet. But its first outing was a little less spectacular – though only by a little. The project has been in the works for about 10 years. It sped from 0-200mph in eight seconds during the demonstration, spewing fire out of its back as it did so. And was driven by ex-RAF fighter pilot Andy Green, who sped it along the runway at Cornwall Airport Newquay.
Green was the first man to break the sound barrier in a car in 1997 when he hit 763.035 in the Thrust SSC. This time, he only reached 210 mph, but he got there in just 8 seconds. He made two races to test the Rolls-Royce jet engine and the car’s control, braking systems and suspension.
The Bloodhound project was first announced at London’s Science Museum in 2008 when Green and project director Richard Noble explained their “three-year mission” to build a car that could break the world land speed record and reach to 1,000MPH (1,609KMH).
Noble, a Scottish entrepreneur, and a qualified pilot had held the land speed record between 1983 and 1997 with the jet-propelled Thrust2. He quit his driving duties shortly after and became project director for the Thrust SSC, which Green drove to a record-breaking 763MPH (1,228KMH) in Jordan’s al-Jafr desert.
Ewen Honeyman, Bloodhound’s marketing director, said that getting to this point has cost $40 million at current exchange rates, and a similar amount will be needed more. “That’s a lot of money, obviously,” he said at the test, “but compared to a Formula 1 budget, it’s modest. You could not run a team at the back of the grid for that.”
It feels un-British to turn the conversation to money, but funding has been the limiting factor in much of Bloodhound’s dropped schedule, with delays responsible for the departure of several of the earlier sponsors, including Jaguar.
The Bloodhound team has been forced to adapt to the project’s inconsistent funding. There have been months, for instance, when the company couldn’t afford to pay its staff. However, Parraman said, that “nobody has ever been paid”. That might sound frightening, but it’s a way of life that most of the Bloodhound crew is used to. “If you look at the CVs of most people who work on this project, there is a very particular, almost, type of person,” Parraman said. Most have been self-employed for large portions of their life, for instance. Many have worked abroad or in the armed forces. They are, therefore, used to earning money inconsistently.
The Focus on South Africa
Unsurprisingly, given the temporal slippage that has already occurred, Bloodhound’s senior team was unwilling to commit to a fixed schedule for the remainder of the project. Presuming funds are found, the first plan is to go to South Africa next year for jet-powered runs, up to around 600 mph, on the carefully prepared surface of the Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape. Development of the rocket engines will proceed in parallel, with the ambition being that the first trip to Africa will unlock enough additional sponsorship cash to allow for a return in early 2019 to attempt to take the land speed record. If you are a billionaire and looking forward to making make history, this could be a good time to get included.
“We’re going to need a bit of help,” said Honeyman, “but we’re very confident that we’ll get there in the end.”