This year Andy Green, Richard Noble and the Bloodhound land speed record team plan to push boundaries again, this time beyond 800mph. If that goes well, they will endeavour to exceed 1000mph next year.
High speeds have long enthralled car enthusiasts. Back in 2001, Autocar produced a supplement on the subject. Highlights included a rundown of the greatest fast cars ever made (from the McLaren F1 to the 1907 Metallurgique-Maybach Tourer, powered by a 10-litre aero engine), the fastest drivers (from Jim Clark to Colin McRae, via Tazio Nuvolari and Bernd Rosemeyer) and a nostalgic drive in a Lamborghini Diablo, rated as good for 207mph and tested to an indicated 201mph.
But the main feature was our man Colin Goodwin getting behind the wheel of the Vampire jet car, which produced 10,000bhp from its Rolls-Royce Orpheus engine. The initial plan was to run the car without the afterburners lit, the car’s owners reckoning that to do so would be too much for our man. But after a series of carefully staggered runs to 205mph, Goodwin put on his best puppy dog eyes and asked the question.
“I can’t go the rest of my life wondering what it feels like to drive this car with the afterburner lit,” he pleaded to Colin Fallows, Vampire’s builder and driver, while contemplating the shift from 5000lb of thrust to 7800lb.
Sitting on the start line, all Goodwin had to do was flick a switch to unleash the power. “As soon as I do, fuel will be shot into the combustion chamber, where it will ignite, pass through the turbine then light the fuel spraying out of the afterburner ring.” Sounds simple…
One flick of the switch and: “There’s no time for shock to register, so huge and varied are the sensations that assault me. There’s an explosion of sound behind, shatteringly loud. The seatbelts go slack as my body and internals are thrust back. It’s a weird feeling as my brain channels every resource into following the line up the runway.”
He didn’t know it from the cockpit, but GPS readings confirmed Goodwin had hit 262mph – in six seconds. But there was one more challenge to come: after deploying the braking parachute, Goodwin’s body was subjected to 12g deceleration. “My body is almost cut in half as it slams against the belts,” he wrote. “My neck muscles strain and twang as my head shoots forwards.”
It may have been a quarter of the speed the Bloodhound team is aiming for, but it gave Goodwin an insight into why people chase down speed barriers. Offered a future run in a newer, faster jet car, Goodwin is surprised to find himself tempted. “It’s worse than a drug, this lunatic speed thing,” he wrote.