The McLaren F1, Bugatti Veyron, Koenigsegg Agera RS – when you think of cars built in the pursuit of top speed, these three might come to mind. While the Koenigsegg claims the honour of being the fastest production car of all time, hitting 277.87mph, for a British team led by former land speed record holder Richard Noble OBE, that just isn’t enough. After piloting Thrust II to 633mph in 1983, Noble oversaw the creation of ThrustSSC, the world’s first supersonic car, which set a new record of 763mph in 1997. Now he’s back, with his sights set on his latest goal – to break the mythical 1000mph barrier.
The project has been christened Bloodhound, a fittingly evocative title for a car that when it’s complete will produce an astonishing 135,000bhp. Yes, you read that right. To give that figure some context, the aforementioned Koenigsegg produces a paltry 1160bhp in comparison.
Providing such stratospheric levels of power is a hybrid rocket motor combined with the jet engine from a Eurofighter Typhoon military aircraft. Pumping the fuel for the rocket is a 550bhp V8 engine from Jaguar that would ordinarily be found in the likes of their F-Type sports car. Meanwhile, the rocket itself has an astonishing 96% combustion efficiency.
The ‘bodywork’ (and I use that term loosely, for Bloodhound is unlike any other car) is based around a steel ‘backbone’ and is constructed from a mix of carbon fibre and titanium. Even Bloodhound’s most car-like feature, namely its wheels, eschew traditional rubber tyres and are instead made entirely of aluminium.
Noble plans to take the Bloodhound to South Africa in 2019, where the car will make its first attempt at breaking the existing land speed record, before aiming for the 1000mph target in 2020. The location will be the Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape region, where 16,000 tonnes of stone have been cleared by hand to ensure the surface is safe for driver Andy Green OBE (the man behind the wheel of ThrustSSC) to reach the previously unimaginable speeds Bloodhound is capable of.
Not surprisingly, achieving such a feat takes vast amounts of money, with £30 million raised so far and more urgently needed. It was announced yesterday that the project has gone into administration, raising question marks over its viability, although the team remains confident in their ability to attract new investors. While the financial hurdles loom large, Noble is used to a challenge. In the race to break his own 1983 record, he took on the might of the McLaren Formula 1 team with a budget of just £2.5 million (10 times less than McLaren).
Regardless of the uncertainty currently surrounding Bloodhound, it has already left a legacy perhaps even greater than its record-breaking ambitions. The excitement and enthusiasm generated by such an innovative project is something that Noble has capitalised on to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians through a highly successful educational programme.
In spite of its achievements so far, the next few weeks will be crucial in determining the future of this ground-breaking project. With the right financial backing, Bloodhound could be making its first land speed record attempt in less than a year’s time. The world is watching as Richard Noble and his team attempt to turn the quest to reach 1000mph from a dream into reality.