Bloodhound SA-bound in 2019

The Bloodhound land-speed record project has announced testing in SA in October 2019, writes Mark Smyth

10 July 2019 - 01:01 By Mark Smyth
The Bloodhound LSR is undergoing final preparations for testing in SA in October 2019.
The Bloodhound LSR is undergoing final preparations for testing in SA in October 2019.
Image: Supplied

The Bloodhound LSR world land-speed record project looked to have its handbrake permanently on last year when it went into administration. Then it was rescued in a last-minute bid by British businessman Ian Warhurst who we spoke to at the relaunch for the project in March this year.

At the time there was lots of positivity, but Warhurst and his team were reluctant to commit to exact dates when the rocket-propelled car would do its first high-speed runs on the Hakskeen Pan in SA’s Northern Cape.

That commitment has now arrived with the team announcing this week that those first runs will take place in October 2019.

“I’m thrilled that we can announce Bloodhound’s first trip to SA for these high-speed testing runs,” says Warhurst. “This world land-speed record campaign is unlike any other, with the opportunities opened up by digital technology that enabled the team to test the car’s design using computation fluid dynamics (CFD) and that will allow us to gather and share data about the car’s performance in real time.”

Following tests in Newquay in the UK in 2017, this will be the first time the newly liveried car will undertake proper high-speed tests and the team are aiming for a key milestone of 800km/h. The main aim is not just to achieve the speed but to collect essential data before going for the world record.

Between 640-800km/h, the specially designed wheels become almost secondary to the precisely designed aerodynamics, engineered to provide the essential level of grip on the surface of the pan. At 804km/h it is expected that the large 900mm aluminium wheels with their v-shaped edges will lift from the surface, leaving just a few millimetres in contact with the pan’s baked clay surface. It will be the first time these wheels will be properly tested.

Project organisers say they will attempt up to 10 runs at these speeds to ascertain if everything is working as it should be. That also includes the Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine from a Eurofighter Typhoon which produces up to 90 kilonewtons of thrust. To put that in perspective, it’s about the same as 350 cars, all accelerating flat out at once.

Ian Warhurst, the businessman who rescued the project from administration in 2018.
Ian Warhurst, the businessman who rescued the project from administration in 2018.
Image: Supplied

“The section of the track we’ll use it 16km by 500m, with large safety areas on both sides,” says Warhurst. “This allows us to lay out up to twelve individual tracks side by side. This is important as we can’t run over the same piece of ground twice because the car will break up the baked mud surface as it passes. We need multiple tracks so we can build speed slowly and safely, going up in 80km/h steps, comparing real world results with theoretical data and Hakskeen Pan is the perfect place to do this.

That surface has been cleared by over 300 members of the local community in the Northern Cape who have been expecting Bloodhound’s arrival for a few years now. Over the years some infrastructure has been put in place but it’s unclear at this point what sponsorship deals have been carried over from previous agreements to ensure all runs smoothly.

There is definitely a renewed level of confidence and the tests will relay vast amounts of information from over 500 sensors and cameras back to Swansea University in Wales where it will be analysed in real time, much like teams do in Formula 1.

The ultimate aim remains to break the world land-speed record, currently held by Thrust SSC and driven by Andy Green, who will also pilot Bloodhound. That record is 1,228km/h. If the team break that then they are hoping to go even faster, to achieve 1,000mph (1,609km/h).

Questions do remain over funding though, something that was a crippling issue for the original project. Warhurst has always said that he sees the project as commercially viable although he is using plenty of his own cash. The car, if we can really call it that, has been repainted red and white with lots of space for sponsors.

When we spoke to him earlier this year, Warhurst was adamant that many sponsors are sticking with the attempt and more are on the way. Just who and how much cash they are stumping up to facilitate the move to Hakskeen Pan remains unclear, but now more than ever, it appears that the wheels of Bloodhound will finally turn on SA soil in October this year. 

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