Bloodhound Land Speed Record Car

Bloodhound on the Hunt


Words and photos by Tom McCarthy

On Thursday, October 26, 2017, the land speed record car (LSR) created by the British known as Bloodhound, was let loose off its leash for the first time in public. The car, intended to reach a design speed of 1,000 MPH, has begun its run log and did so with smooth precision.


Its first two runs were just textbook spot-on. With a targeted peak run speed of 200 MPH for its initial shakedown passes, the actual runs achieved were 202 and 210 MPH.


The manor in which the runs were conducted was totally surprising to any seasoned drag racing journalist: they hot-lapped the car! At exactly 1:09 PM, after a taxi run to bring the car into position, driver Andy Green, RAF Wing Commander Andy Green that is, put his foot into it and with great thrust accelerated to 202 MPH with ease, then slowed the car well before the end of the 900-foot runway of Newquay Aerohub, Corwall, UK.

RAF Wing Commander Andy Green, the driver of Bloodhound SSC, addressing the media on “Media Day” explains the car for a recorded interview. Over 200 members of the Press were tugging at him for interviews.


Astonishingly, after the first run, yet much to my delight, he then drove the car directly onto the taxi road again and began cruising down the back stretch of the airport taxiway. Wing Commander Green then exited at the far end taxiway and re-entered the main runway.


Once in position, at 1:22 PM he floored it again and made a second run. No refueling, no between round maintenance, just bam: flat out performance. The car had a total run time of 21.5 minutes start up to shut down. In my decades of covering drag racing I’ve never seen anything like it.


When Andy Green exited the cockpit of the Bloodhound he was facing live BBC television cameras and he commented after the run “All the instruments looked good, the car did exactly what I wanted it to do. I even noticed a little bit of flame spring up off one of the front carbon fiber brakes during braking, just like you’d see on an F-1 car. This is a proper fast car, the best land speed record car ever made.” He then went further, “It is a privilege to be a part of the Bloodhound team.”


Mr. Green knows a thing or two about Land Speed Record racing; he’s the current world record holder, as the fastest man on earth.


Andy Green was the driver of the Thrust Super Sonic Car for Richard Nobel in 1997. Andy and the team set a new world LSR record of 763.035 MPH on October 15, 1997. That car and that record was the first to go super-sonic and generate a shock wave, which knocked things off shelves and set off a sprinkler system in Gerlach, Nevada, miles away from Black Rock Desert, where the runs took place.


In similar fashion, the paring of Richard Noble and Andy Green are at it again. Some miles from Newquay Aerohub, in the adjacent town of St. Mawgan, one of the inn owners at Dalswinton House, Mrs. Ang Warren commented, “I’ve heard it twice, this tremendous roar. It’s like nothing else we’ve heard here. We see the big Russian transport planes, helicopters, that sort of thing, all the time here, after all, we live near an airport. But that sound, from Bloodhound, it’s like nothing else, this tremendous roar, then suddenly, silence.”

To coincide with this, during the days prior to the runs of October 26, Bloodhound underwent two firings, once as a static tie down test to bring the new motor up to re-heat and again as the car made a first test run, for a systems function check, down the runway. Wherever Bloodhound goes, everybody knows - when Bloodhound is in town, there’s no missing it.


Preceding the test runs at Newquay Aerohub, the Bloodhound team trucked the car down from Avon, in the UK. It arrived on September 20 and the build team set up its first full-on remote site shop to service the car. This is a skill the team must master: the ability to travel great distance, set up properly and full service the car. There will be no “I forgot it back at the shop” once in South Africa for the record run.

When the car arrived in Newquay, the team set up in an old RAF squadron, H.A.S. or Hardened Aircraft Shelter, facility number seven, at the Newquay airport. If the building could talk, the tales it would tell! This cold-war-era hanger, complete with blast doors, has a certain feel to it that exudes a strong military presence. This helps impart a military type sense of purpose and camaraderie to the race team which attends to Bloodhound. These men and women, unified in their efforts, will make or break this project.


For them, it’s all about precision team work to achieve missions and goals. They hold pre- and post-run briefings with each outing, recording everything in great detail.

Currently this team’s short-term goals are fully achievable such as 1) prove that all systems are fully functioning exactly the way they are designed and intended to function. Then (2), begin getting the car, and all of the associated equipment, ready to pack and ship off to South Africa. Now that the car has proven itself as fully operational, it’s time to get down to business.


At some point in 2018 the Bloodhound team will send off everything to South Africa’s northern most part of the Cape, to a location known as the Hakskeen Pan. There they will set up a new shop and begin speed trial runs, collecting valuable data with each pass.


The lake bed area (Pan) is located in the southern-most portion of the Kalahari Desert, where Namibia, Botswana and a segment of the Northern Cape, all come together.


The Hakskeen Pan, where Bloodhound’s race course is located, is a lake bed which floods for part of the year, but is also dry for much of the year, so exactly when the team can travel is dependent on Mother Nature. Currently best guestimates are possibly between the months of February and July of 2018, but this can only be looked upon as a well-intended maybe.

The driver/pilot’s cockpit of Andy Green who drives Bloodhound SSC. It’s refreshing to see he keeps a spiral bound notebook with pen attached to keep handwritten notes beside him. He makes notations each time he enters the cockpit and fires up the car.


While racing fans are used to seeing instant results from race teams and race cars, Bloodhound is no ordinary race car. There will be no instant gratification here. One does not just design a 1,000-MPH race car, then run it to see what happens.


There is a process necessary here to assure the safety of the driver and the car. Only one car in the history of the world has ever gone super-sonic, on land, and set a world record: the Thrust Super Sonic Car. A car designed and built by the core element of this team. But consider they did so in 1997, and despite the best efforts by other world class teams since that time, no one else has gone trans-sonic on land with four wheels on the ground in the past twenty years. So, for this car to go beyond super-sonic and into a whole new realm of land speed racing is to enter a danger zone where there is no preexisting data to draw from.

The Bloodhound has a long aerodynamic snout designed to help keep the car planted firmly on the race course.


Therefore the team must acquire data from 600 MPH and above that, so that as the car begins to achieve speeds no other car in the history of auto sport has ever achieved: data and performance must align with design. Bloodhound and its handlers must learn to crawl, walk, and run before they start exploring unknown land speeds in excess of 800 MPH. The fastest recorded speed of Thrust SSC was 766 MPH, so how exactly a race car will behave after that speed is exploratory territory.


To address this, the team has used Computational Fluid Dynamics computer modeling, which they began using in the early 1990’s, to look at the pressure wave flow and how the pressure waves should behave, as they will influence the car’s handling.


In looking back at this team’s previous performance with their last super-sonic car, through data they gathered at Pendine in Wales with a scale model on a rocket-sled, the design team was able to predict how the Thrust SSC car would/should react to super-sonic pressure waves. This team has been in uncharted waters before with a successful outcome.


With the Thrust SSC car and mid 1990’s technology (for the most part) up to 600 MPH the car did everything they expected it to do. However, between 590 and 670 MPH, as the car was beginning to go super-sonic and cross the speed of sound, the car would and did drift as much as 50 feet off it’s intended line of travel. According to driver Andy Green, it would not always do it, but there were times Andy had the steering wheel at full-lock to one side to drive the car back onto it’s intended line of travel.


The predictions the team worked with in mid 1990’s were generated on two decades old computer technology, when compared to today’s super computers. The team is confident that with today’s modeling and computer data, they are in a far better positon to project how Bloodhound will react when going trans-sonic and into super-sonic travel. Thus, the need to travel up the speed spectrum incrementally from 400 to 600 and then on to 800 MPH, before pushing on to the targeted 1,000 MPH mark.


And it’s very compelling to realize that while the team is doing this, the greatest accomplishment they could possibly achieve with this project will likely not happen out on the race course. Nor will it be fully realized in the near term.


As the Bloodhound project evolves and develops, it’s touching the lives of millions of people around the globe through the miracle of the internet. Thousands of school children in many, many counties are involved in school projects associated with Bloodhound and the technology that has brought the car to where it is today. Boys and girls of all ages are becoming interested in the world’s fastest race car, ever conceived and built.

On Monday, October 30, close to four thousand school children, many of middle school age, flocked to the runway to see Bloodhound perform. They lined the fence line and asked questions of Richard Noble and Andy Green, saw the car in person and this filled some minds with wonder. There is no telling which of these children, or one at home in their own bedroom, watching the car run on social media, will one day be motivated to enter into an engineering course or move on to further studies, because they were inspired by the Bloodhound project.


As Richard Noble stated in an interview, “There must first be inspiration, before aspiration, leading to perspiration and doing the work it takes to change the world we live in. Someone has to first become inspired and then do the work, to enter a whole new realm of technology and change the future.”


We know not the lives this car will touch and what causative effect this will bring to the future. But this much is certain: the Bloodhound SSC project is on the hunt, going boldly into the future, taking many along with it in their wake. 



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