The people behind Bloodhound, the jet-and-rocket-combining land-speed-record-attempting car, have been looking for more money for quite some time.
Now they’ve combined that search with one for a new driver, in what strikes me as the most sensible change of trajectory in the project’s difficult history. I had a ‘why didn’t I/they think of that before?’ moment when the story landed.
It has been trying to appeal to corporations – it should have appealed to egos long ago. The land speed record has stood at 763mph for the past 26 years, since Andy Green took Thrust SSC supersonic.
Now 61, Green has been in the hot seat for the Bloodhound project too since its 2008 inception and has already tested it at 628mph. Initially the talk was of 1000mph, but these days they just talk about going faster than before: 800mph.
Since the very first land speed record was set, one has never stood for this long. The costs are so high and, once the speed of sound had been broken, what, in the view of any big business, would be the point?
For Bloodhound, it was always to boost skills and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).
The car has been on roadshows and educational tours; volunteer ambassadors have been to schools and colleges and spread the word about the tech behind going fast. It was meant not just to create noise and speed but to create engineers, too.
It was hoped that big businesses would back that cause. And while many did, it was never quite enough. So since the world’s attitude to noise and speed has tilted, so has Bloodhound’s educational focus – onto green tech.
If it runs at all, its jet will run on synthetic fuel. Its fuel pump, initially planned to be a detuned Formula 1 engine and later a Jaguar V8, is now a high-capacity electric motor. The rocket’s emissions were only ever going to be just steam, oxygen and excitement.