Bloodhound sniffs out 1,000mph

Photo credit: Jaguar MENA | Flickr

Last year, Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg set a new top speed benchmark when their Agera RS model reached a staggering 277.87mph two-way average speed on a stretch of closed public road in the USA. It is officially the fastest production car of all time. 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, and recently gave a talk at Canterbury Christ Church University to tell a gripped audience abouthis mission to break the 1000mph barrier.

The project has been christened Bloodhound, a fittingly evocative title for a car that will produce an astonishing 135,000 break horsepower (bhp). To give that figure some context, the aforementioned Koenigsegg produces a paltry 1160bhp in comparison.

A hybrid rocket motor combined with the jet engine from a Eurofighter Typhoon military aircraft provides the Bloodhound’s stratospheric power output. 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,’ a term used loosely as the Bloodhound is unlike any car seen before, 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 is the Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape region, where 16,000 tonnes of stone have been cleared by handto 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 recently that the Bloodhound Project has gone into administration, but 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 future of this ground-breaking project appears to hang in the balance. 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.