How’s this for a thankless task? A standard road car charged with chasing down one capable of 1000mph.
But that’s what the Bloodhound Jaguar F-Type has been charged with. As the ‘rapid response’ unit, it will travel with the Bloodhound team to South Africa and, if they are successful in their objectives, it will be first on the scene with support crew on board to congratulate Andy Green first on smashing his own land speed record and then becoming the first person to travel across the surface of the planet at more than 1000mph.
I’d hoped I’d be able to use its 542bhp 5.0-litre V8 to resurface the Goodwood Hill in molten rubber, but Andy was good enough to point out that this particular F-Type had four-wheel drive and that there was no point fitting it with launch control, because there are no normal conditions in which from rest it cannot use all of its power, all of the time.
So then I planned to go gently, not least because I had a passenger, but having thundered up to the first corner, turned in reapplied the power and felt the back drift gently wide, I became rather more enthused and drove to the top somewhat rapidly, or at least as rapidly as was possible without taking the smallest risk.
I’ll spend the rest of my life failing to remember which famous racing driver once told me that on the Goodwood Hill you exist always on the wrong side of the risk-to-reward ratio, but his words stuck in my head and I’ve lived with them year by year at the Festival.
The F-Type was a surprisingly good Goodwood weapon: it had both the traction and sprin and damper rates supple enough to work with the hill's many undulations rather than against them. Only up at the top where it is seriously quick did it feel a shade softer than ideal.
It was interesting to see how the crowd reacted to the car given that it’s a completely standard F-Type R, but I guess that the tub-thumping Union Flag and Bloodhound wrap turned it into something else: a standard bearer for the most ambitious land speed record project in the 120-odd years that people have been setting them.
It may not have been quite the fastest thing up the hill, but as a device with which to chase down a jet and rocket-powered land-bound manned missile in the South African desert, there are probably few more fit for purpose than this.