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Richard Noble on The start of the Thrust SSC Project

“I was out on Bonneville with Art Arfons and Craig Breedlove. Breedlove told me that he was going to build his next car. When I came back to Britain all sorts of people started phoning me up and saying, ‘We can’t say anything because we’ve signed non-disclosure agreements, but basically something is happening’.

“I couldn’t really find out what was going on, but I suddenly got a phone call from the McLaren F1 team and they said, ‘We’ve got a few sponsors turning up in a couple of weeks and we’d like to show them something interesting. Could we use your Thrust2 video? Could you do us a favour and send us one?’ So I said, ‘Of course’ and didn’t. They rang up again and said ‘Richard, it hasn’t arrived…’

“‘Oh dear, I’m so sorry,’ I said. ‘What a shame, I’ll send another.’ But I didn’t. After a bit they were becoming apoplectic and it was quite clear they intended to do a Land Speed Record. We decided then that we would take them on and really there were just three of us: Ron Ayresthe aerodynamicist, Glynn Bowsher, who did wheels and structure, and myself. We had no money whatsoever.

“I was invited to go and speak at a big Castrol event in Palm Springs and I spent a lot of time explaining how important their brand values were and how every generation should contribute. I went back to my table afterwards and the managing director of Castrol said ‘Richard, you’re setting us up aren’t you?’ I replied, ‘Yes, absolutely!’”

Castrol became one of the main sponsors of ThrustSSC – the challenger that set a new World Land Speed Record of 763mph in 1997…

And another thing
What our readers had to say on Paul Fearnley’s Surtees vs Clark feature

Terry Jacob: John deserved more than one championship. I cannot, however, imagine him working with Colin Chapman. There would have been a fundamental clash of personalities.
Pat O’Brien: Surtees was doing something right to have survived multiple TTs and then F1, and going as fast as he did in both. Rich Ambroson: I appreciated your noting of Graham Hill’s natural talent. So many writers fall into the ‘Graham Hill worked harder’ nonsense.

Online with our writers

Nigel Roebuck
Drivers’ boycotts
Ecclestone snapped into combat mode from the first: if his Brabham drivers – Piquet and Patrese – were not on parade for the first session, he said, they were sacked for breach of contract. As 10 o’clock came and went, Nelson and Riccardo were lounging by the pool, now apparently out of work.

Denis Jenkinson
Continental Notes, September 1973
The problem was the matter of the Government ban on cigarette advertising. If one outside pressure group, backed by their Government, can squash the power of three big companies as easily as that, it can happen again, and if it happens too often the cigarette companies are going to go somewhere else.

Paul Fearnley
When Surtees won the 1963 German GP
Colin Chapman was often accused of being unable to run more than a single competitive car. There was truth in that: Clark was all he needed. Things might have been different, however, had John Surtees not jumped ship at the end of 1960.

Mat Oxley
Collarbone injuries in MotoGP
Doohan is legendary for his pain resistance, but I always hated pain when I raced and still do. Sadly, one of the most important factors in becoming a successful motorcycle racer is the ability to bounce back from agonising injuries that have your body screaming at your brain: Stop! Please stop! Take up football instead, or tennis, or heroin… anything!