Yesterday morning, on a dull, drizzly day in Newquay, the supersonic Bloodhound SSC was to be tested on the Newquay Airport runway. This would be the British car’s first public test after a long and much anticipated wait.
The airport run would be almost 9 years to the day since the Bloodhound project was first announced on October 23 2008 at the Science Museum in London. Much intense development has taken place since then, along with some funding issues (now fortunately behind the team) culminating in the Bloodhound SSC being ready to make its high-speed public debut.
A series of tests were carried out to make sure that the car’s steering, brakes and suspension, as well as the crucial data systems, were all working correctly. At such high speeds, the margin of error would be tiny.
The current land speed record was set a relatively long time ago in 1997, when Thrust SSC, a British jet propelled vehicle that was developed by Richard Noble, Jeremy Bliss, Ron Ayers and Glynne Bowsher, achieved a staggering top speed of 763mph breaking the sound barrier in the process.
Thrust SSC achieved the record on the flats of the Nevada Desert and was driven by Wing Commander Andy Green of the Royal Air Force – and Wing Commander Green was back to steer Bloodhound SSC in somewhat chillier October weather yesterday.
Long-term, the ambition is to break the record held since 1997 and also achieve an eye watering 1,000mph in a desert in South Africa. Let’s just ponder on that for a second; if you’ve ever been sped into a corner on a track day at speeds where your gut instinct says hit the breaks with your heart in your mouth, then consider that the titanium and carbon fibre Bloodhound SSC will travel faster than a speeding bullet should it achieve 1,000mph – Superman watch out.
The Newquay Airport run was just a breeze in the park on a skateboard in comparison, as the test run was aiming for a mere 200mph on a relatively short runway.
A lucky crowd of 3,000 spectators had the privilege of seeing the jet engined Bloodhound SSC, flames firing from its rear, speed along the flat 1.7-mile runway twice, achieving 210mph in just 8 seconds. It was also the longest period of time that the Bloodhound SSC has so far been run for – around 21 minutes. This exceeds the planned desert run time by 19 full minutes. Green said that to reach the 200mph target, he had concluded in previous testing that he would have to take his foot off the accelerator at 130mph as the car would continue to accelerate for a further 2 seconds.
To stop the 5 tonne beast, Green had to channel some calm and patience and trust in the car itself and his knowledge; all this at such an incredible speed and in such a short period of time. Getting the Bloodhound to stop required the complete opposite of immediately slamming the brakes on; 2 seconds of gentle pressure was required to warm up the carbon fibre discs before applying any full stopping force. The Cornwall taster had Bloodhound SSC running on some (used!) low-grip Dunlop tyres, though for the real deal, solid metal wheels will be required to stop them disintegrating.
The test was a glorious success, making sure the plan remains firmly on track. This means that the target of smashing the world record in the South African Hakskeen Pan Desert is likely to go ahead next year. “This car is easily capable of being the fastest car on earth,” said Andy Green after the successful runs.
The Bloodhound is powered by a Rolls Royce Typhoon EJ200 jet engine, but to achieve the lofty speed of 1,000mph, the supersonic car will have 3 additional Norwegian Nammo rockets fitted as well. Technology has moved on in leaps and bounds since the project started, and it’s looking like the team will now abandon the plan to use a Jaguar V8 engine to pump the oxidiser into the rockets in favour of a lighter electric motor.
One of the Bloodhound SSC aims is to encourage children into the automotive and engineering sector, and the project has released data to schools reaching and inspiring as many as 129,000 school children last year. How much of the projects’ technology and ideas can effectively trickle down to the automotive industry is yet to be seen though.
The project is led by is Richard Noble, a man who has done for land speed records in Britain what Sky have done for British cycling. Noble brought the record back to Britain in 1983 and followed this up as the Project Director behind Thrust SCC’s success in 1997. Let’s hope he can smash the record again in 2018.