Andy Green aims to remain the fastest man on land in jet-powered supersonic car
The Bloodhound is designed to travel at 1,000 mph and it is driven by the fastest man on earth. Can it set a new supersonic world land speed record?
It generates more horsepower than 180 Formula One cars, produces 20 tonnes of drag, and is capable of breaking the sound barrier. But what do you actually do with the world’s fastest car?
For the producers of the Bloodhound jet- and rocket-powered vehicle, the answer was to scour satellite images of the entire planet for a flat expanse of land long enough to drive it on – and thus attempt to break the world land speed record.
After an intensive search Hakskeen Pan, a place in the remote reaches of South Africa’s Northern Cape, was chosen and a stunning 5,000 tonnes of stones and rocks were picked up and moved off a 20-kilometre track.
So far, everything has gone smoothly in every sense, and after some initial testing on runways next year, the Bloodhound team will take its creation to Hakskeen Pan in 2015 to attempt some record-breaking supersonic speeds.
Over the last century, the world land speed record has been a battle between the US and Britain, but if the Bloodhound – which is made in Bristol in the southwest of England – succeeds it will simply be a “hold”.
Bloodhound’s driver is Andy Green, the current holder of the record. In 1997 he reached 763.035 mph (1,149.303 km/h) in ThrustSSC, and no one has got close since. He remains the only man to travel at the speed of sound on land.
Now he’s aiming to do it all over again, only this time going 30 per cent faster than his previous record.
“We’re trying to do what no one has done before,” says Green, a pilot in Britain’s Royal Air Force. “I’ve got five supersonic runs, which is five more than anybody else. That gives me a unique perspective on the challenges facing the new car and how we’re going to take it a lot further.”
Green has great back up. Project director for both ThrustSSC and the Bloodhound is Richard Noble, who held the world land speed record between 1983 and 1997.
There’s some serious engineering feats inside the Bloodhound. The world land speed record rules are laid down by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which also regulates Formula One, but the differences between Formula One and the Bloodhound are vast.
The top speed of a Formula One car is roughly 240mph; to achieve 1,000mph, each of the Bloodhound’s solid aluminium 95kg wheels spins four times faster at a remarkable 10,200rpm.
Inside is a Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine (normally found on Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft) as well as a custom-designed hybrid rocket that together can propel the car to a maximum of 1,050 mph.
A 750 bhp Cosworth Formula One engine is used merely to drive the rocket oxidiser pump.
“The ground is close, going past terribly fast, and that’s just one of those background things where you have to say, ‘Yup, that should be a mind-blowing sensation’,” says Green. “But I can’t afford for it to be, I have to concentrate on doing my job.”
The ultimate goal is the “flying mile”, the planned record-breaking measurement that the Bloodhound aims to complete in just 3.6 seconds.
All that’s left to do is to stop, but that’s not easy. Airbrakes will unfold at 800mph to create an extra six tonnes of drag, and as a back-up, the car is fitted with parachutes that add a further nine tonnes of drag at 600mph.
It’s not until Bloodhound is down to a leisurely 200mph that friction brakes can be applied. “Slowing at 66mph is a crash in most people’s books,” says Green.