Bloodhound land speed tests in SA ‘could start this year’

22 March 2019 - 07:17 By Dave Chambers
Bloodhound in its new home in Gloucestershire, UK. It could be in the Northern Cape for tests before the end of the year.
Bloodhound in its new home in Gloucestershire, UK. It could be in the Northern Cape for tests before the end of the year.
Image: Bloodhound LSR

Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape is back on the map as the site of an attempt to break the land speed record.

The new owner of Bloodhound, a car which, in theory, will go supersonic as it floats across 22 million square metres of Kalahari that has been hand-cleared of 16,000 tons of rock, could bring the car from the UK to SA later this year for high-speed trials.

Just three months ago, Bloodhound seemed destined only to gather dust in a museum after the team behind it went bankrupt.

Now it is back, under the management of British entrepreneur Ian Warhurst, who is fond of saying: “My kids kept saying I should buy a fast car, so I bought the fastest.”

Warhurst, a multi-millionaire, said he was prepared to provide “robust financial backing”, but a search for sponsors had begun.

“I knew that I could buy the car, save it and put it in a museum. But once I’d bought it we looked into whether we could run it, whether we could resurrect it as effectively a new project,” he said on Thursday

“It is commercially viable. We believe the value of the sponsorship will easily pay for the project.”

The car, which has so far achieved 320km/h, will initially aim to beat the land speed record of 1,228km/h at Hakskeen Pan, which was cleared of rocks in a project that absorbed 1,000 man years of effort.

With the speed of sound 1,235km/h, the first effort could lead to a sonic boom, but the next attempt will guarantee it: the Bloodhound team hopes to reach 1,000 miles per hour (1,609km/h).

At that speed, the jet and rocket-powered car, which is more the size of a bus at 13.5m long, could travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg in 52 minutes, assuming minibus taxis on the N1 moved out of its way.

But it will have only 19km of SA desert in which to get up to speed and stop on a track 500m wide.

Bloodhound arrives at its new home in Gloucestershire, UK.
Bloodhound arrives at its new home in Gloucestershire, UK.
Image: Bloodhound LSR

Bloodhound’s headquarters have moved to SGS Berkeley Green University Technical College on the Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park, and many of the team members who lost their jobs when the project went bust in December have been re-employed.

Engineering director Mark Chapman said while there was mechanical work to do, the most intimidating obstacle facing the team was red tape.

“It sounds daft, but the longest items are going to be the paperwork,” he said.

“The switch [of ownership] comes with a lot of bureaucracy that needs to be gone through if we're to take things like an EJ200 [fighter jet engine] to South Africa.

“We’d like to get there before this year's weather window closes, but if we can’t, so be it. We’ll only announce a date when we know we can hit it.”

Andy Green, the military pilot who will drive Bloodhound in the record attempt, said: “We are in a fantastic position with a mostly finished car which has already proved its basic performance.

“We’re still trying to achieve an astonishing global engineering adventure by getting the most advanced, straight-line racing car in history to a new land speed record.”