High-speed testing will get under way this autumn ahead of a record attempt and 1000mph target
Steve Cropley Autocar
10 July 2019

Bloodhound, the British land speed record project dramatically rescued from receivership early this year after a last-minute intervention from engineering millionaire Ian Warhurst, is to begin a series of high-speed trials in South Africa this autumn as the first step to challenging the 21-year old world land speed record.

The jet-and-rocket-powered Bloodhound LSR car, which has been 10 years in the building but came within hours of being sent to a breaker’s yard, will begin a series of tests in October, described by the team as a “full dress rehearsal” for record runs currently scheduled for late 2020. 

This year’s tests will investigate the all-important 400-500mph speed range where, as the car accelerates, control passes from the car’s steered wheels to its aerodynamic surfaces. Testing must be thorough through this phase, Warhurst says, as the team compares actual results with theoretical data. Bloodhound, which last year successfully ran at 200mph at Newquay Airport, will also roll for the first time on its new all-aluminium wheels.

Bloodhound will be driven by former RAF fast-jet pilot and current record-holder Wing Commander Andy Green, who back in 1997 became the only person ever to drive a car at supersonic speed on land when he took his Thrust SSC record car to a new mark of 763.035mph. The Grafton LSR crew believe they can achieve 800mph as a first step. 

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

The record attempt is scheduled to take place late in 2020, but the team has set no timetable for their other, much tougher objective of achieving 1000mph on land. “We’ve divided our aims into two separate phases,” says Warhurst, owner and CEO of the project’s supporting company, Grafton LSR. “We’ll concentrate on the record first, and when we’ve achieved that, we’ll use the data and knowledge gained to make a judgement about whether to go for the second phase.”

The latest Bloodhound tests will take place on a specially prepared 12-mile test track at Hakskeen Pan, Northern Cape, South Africa, which has been specially prepared on a dry lake bed by members of the local Mier community. Working by hand, they have removed more than 16,500 tonnes of stone in preparation for Bloodhound’s runs. 

Twelve parallel tracks have been laid out, because the car’s unique aluminium wheels — which don’t have tyres because the rotational speed would throw them off the rims — penetrate the track’s hard surface as they run, and “up to 12” runs are planned for this first trip to South Africa.

The new Bloodhound ownership team is maintaining its role as at attraction to STEM subjects for school-age students, by making its results and research findings publicly available. “This is the first land speed record attempt of the digital era,” explains Ian Warhurst. “Digital platforms can share data in real time from hundreds of sensors on the car, allowing budding engineers to see exactly how the car is behaving as it dices with physics.”

Warhurst is funding the current preparations himself, but is depending on the forthcoming tests to attract new backers, especially title and livery sponsors. For now, the car is painted all white, but the Warhurst believes when it “does something” interested corporate and technical partners, currently waiting in the wings, will come forward.

The project has moved from its old base near Bristol and will now be based in new premises in the SGS Berkeley Green University Technical College, in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.

The car’s new livery – a red fin with a white body – is intended to encourage new investors in the project, which for the first time will offer both title and livery sponsorships. Bloodhound’s original yellow and blue livery, from what they’re now calling the R&D phase, will still be used in photographs and videos, the new owners say. 

Warhurst has established a new company, Grafton LSR Ltd, to run the project. The name is taken from an 1839 painting by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, which now hangs in the Tate Gallery, of a bloodhound called Grafton.

Warhurst is joined in the new company by familiar faces including driver Andy Green and chief engineer Mark Chapman, along with many others from the original team “to provide continuity”. The team also now includes commercial director and ex-Formula 1 money man Ewen Honeyman, whose job will be to find new backers for the project. 

For the time being, Warhurst, who was eight days into his retirement when he heard last December of Bloodhound’s demise by text from his son, will provide “the cashflow to keep the project on track” until extra backers are found. Warhurst recently sold Melett, a turbocharger parts and equipment supplier of which he was the owner and managing director. 

“I have been overwhelmed by the passion and enthusiasm the public has shown for the project,” said Warhurst. “Over the past decade, an incredible amount of hard graft has been invested in this project. It would be a tragedy to see it go to waste. It’s my ambition to let Bloodhound off the leash and see just how fast it can go.”

The former boss of Bloodhound SSC, Richard Noble, will not participate on Bloodhound’s engineering side but will continue to work on its educational aspects. He said: “It was a hard fight to create the Bloodhound car, the largest STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) programme in the UK, the public engagement programme and the 1000 man-year desert preparation. Our weakness was always finance but now, with Ian Warhurst, the team has the support it needs to drive forward.”

Q&A: Ian Warhurst

Why did you buy Bloodhound?

“I had to. They were on the point of cutting it up and sending it away for scrap. In fact, they put it off so I could come and see the car. I knew I couldn’t leave without doing some kind of deal.”

Did you know immediately that you’d go for the record?

“We had to decide whether to put it in a museum or run it as intended. It took about two months to decide it could be a commercial proposition.”

How’s sponsorship going? Wasn’t that the problem last time?

“So far, we’ve had some good indicators, calls from big corporates talking the right numbers, broadly speaking. The problem for projects like this is cash flow, which is what I’m providing. When you get close to running, you have something to sell to sponsors. We believe this can run on a proper commercial basis.”

Have you been to Hakskeen Pan yet?

“Yes, I was there earlier this month, doing 100mph on it in a Toyota Land Cruiser. If you want to see flat, boy, that’s it. I couldn’t believe we’d need to go eight times as fast to break the [current 763mph] record.”

Read more

Bloodhound SSC saved as investor buys 1000mph project

Bloodhound SSC: inside the factory building a 1000mph car

Land speed records: a history of British obsession

Join the debate

Comments
4

10 July 2019

Yes, its in many way's a futile goal, and yes we could save many Whales, Ethiopians, Iceberg's if we spent the money on them, but with that said if we did not keep pushing the boundary's of what is considered possible, then we petrolheads would still be saddling our horse each morning. That it continues a great British tradition, that of showing the World that we can be ground breaking pioneers when it comes to all things material, only adds to the satisfaction we should all hold in light of this latest announcement. Ian Warhurst I submit, should be given the recognition he deserves for saving this project and re-igniting it.

10 July 2019

Hear Hear Boris

Couldn’t put it better. The human race needs to either progress or wither. And in the transportation area we haven’t been doing so well for a few decades. Remember when we could fly to the USA in three hours and people were walking on the Moon? Hasn’t been done for a while.

There should be lots of spin-offs from this project, some of which will be positive for Bears, Ethiopians and Icebergs.

Good Luck to all

 

10 July 2019

What about all the supporters of the previous regime who paid to have their names on the fin. Will this still be honoured?

Birds Eye Potato Waffles, they're Waffly Versatile

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week