The Bloodhound land speed record project is up for sale for the second time, with owner Ian Warhurst stepping away as a result of pandemic-induced funding difficulties.
Warhurst rescued the troubled Bloodhound project from administration in December 2018, vowing to take the jet-fuelled car to its 1000mph ultimate objective. The car hit 600mph for the first time in tests in South Africa in 2019, but Covid-19 has since formed a barrier to continued development.
Warhurst's holding company, Grafton LSR, is up for sale following his decision to exit the project. If a buyer isn't found, the Bloodhound car will be put into long-term storage indefinitely, with no guarantee of its revival.
The next stage for the Bloodhound project is to add a bespoke monopropellant rocket booster to its Eurofighter Typhoon-derived jet engine, which is planned to send it to 800mph. Completing this work and attempting to hit that speed is expected to cost more than £8 million, but the organisers say "the current economic climate brought on by the global pandemic has severely impacted the search for fundraising and the project timeline".
The Bloodhound team still plans to try for 1000mph in 2022, eclipsing the 763mph land speed record achieved by Thrust SSC in 1997, and expects to "recoup increasingly large amounts through sponsorship and rights sales as the programme develops," making the project "a unique and exciting investment".
Last November, Warhust said pandemic-related delays had "bought us a bit more time" to secure the necessary funding. "It’s a chicken-and-egg situation," he said at the time. "So I’m seeking underwriters – people like myself – who will guarantee enough money to make the preparations, around half of the estimated £8m. These people will be offered the chance to join our business as partners."
Speaking after his departure, Warhurst told Autocar: "The challenge is to find someone who'll do what I did two years ago, in effect to buy control of what happens next to Bloodhound. That's different from just being a sponsor.
"I've invested as much as I want to — a fair bit more than I intended actually. The idea was to prove the thing could work, then get sponsorship that would take us the last part of the journey, but that hasn't happened. Covid has made life very difficult.
"People ask if the money's been wasted. I don't think so. We've had things made. We've employed people. And those people and businesses have paid tax so it's been good for the country.
"It's frustrating to have to step back, because the next bit is the cutting-edge technology. That's where we use the best battery technology and the best electric motors, where we use the same rocket technology they use to put spacecraft into orbit."