In October, the Bloodhound will arrive at Hakskeen Pan outside Upington where it will fire up its jet engine and start testing at 800km/h or so with the intention of feeling out its braking system. This is all in the build-up to (hopefully) setting a new land speed record at the 1 000mph (1 600km/h) mark – the current 22-year-old record sits at just under 1 228km/h.
Based on preliminary research, the Bloodhound team believes its ultimate attempt to go 1 600km/h in a land vehicle could draw a global live audience of 1.5 billion people and film crews are already trying to figure out how to use the huge and incredibly flat expanse of Hakskeen Pan for various projects after it becomes the site of a record-busting feat.
Over the course of a minimum of 12 test runs, Bloodhound will use only a jet engine to accelerate to mind-boggling speeds, albeit only half the final target. There is no need yet to fire up the rocket that will take it above 800km/h, its managers say; that is fast enough to test the parachutes that must slow it down, and the all-metal wheels that will carry its complicated chassis. Initially those wheels should cut between 10mm and 15mm into the surface, says driver Andy Green, who is also the current land speed record holder. As the car speeds up, the cut will reduce to around 5mm at which point it will probably feel like it is driving on ice. Exactly how it moves will become all the more important at double that speed.
Less than a year ago, the Bloodhound project entered administration after running out of money after 11 years of development. At the time, its administrators estimated it required £25 million – nearly half a billion rand – to stay afloat, and nobody was putting up that kind of money. But in December, British entrepreneur Ian Warhurst bought it out of administration. The project is being branded as the ‘first digital land-speed record’ and hopes to attract both cash and in-kind sponsorship from a range of high-tech and engineering-focused companies.