Bloodhound makes it to 160km/h as pursuit of land speed record begins

25 October 2019 - 14:48 By Dave Chambers
Bloodhound moved under its own power in the Northern Cape on October 25 2019. It reached 160km/h.
Bloodhound moved under its own power in the Northern Cape on October 25 2019. It reached 160km/h.
Image: Twitter/Bloodhound LSR

The dust of the Northern Cape was finally disturbed on Friday by the jet-powered car that aims to break the land speed record in 2020.

The Bloodhound team, which is conducting three weeks of testing on the Hakskeen pan, tweeted on Friday: “And we're off! Run Profile One has been successfully completed.”

The car reached 160km/h, but is theoretically capable of going 10 times as fast.

Testing was delayed by difficulties starting the car, which was flown from the UK to Johannesburg before being transported by truck to the 19km track laid out between SA’s borders with Namibia and Botswana.

The problem was traced to a fuel pump, and once that was fixed there was another issue with the vehicle’s start-up sequence.

The man behind the wheel for Bloodhound’s first run on the dry lake bed was Andy Green, a fighter pilot who set the land speed record of 1,227.9km/h in 1997.

“There is nothing out there as fast as this car,” Green told the Sunday Times shortly after arriving at the remote site last week.

Around 16,500 tons of stones have been cleared off the pan — mostly by members of the local Mier community — to allow for maximum possible speed, and the project team have been analysing the weather for close on a decade.

“It is the biggest single human effort to actually prepare a racetrack,” said Green. “It is an achievement of biblical proportions.”

Bloodhound is described as a combination of a fast jet, a Formula 1 car and a spaceship, and Green says when the day of the record attempt arrives his mind will be consumed with the task of controlling it, not enjoying the view.

“There are about 20 different things I’m looking for on every single run. This isn’t some Zen-like state where you can rely on some kind of mythical force to control the car. It is about being completely in charge of everything the car is doing,” he said.

The project almost collapsed a year ago due to funding issues, but was resurrected with the support of British billionaire Ian Warhust and several high-profile sponsors.

In addition to breaking the land speed record, it aims to showcase new technology and inspire a future generation of engineers.