Bloodhound LSR sale: "It's a last roll of the dice"

Land Speed Record News

The land speed record aspirations of Bloodhound's jet and rocket-propelled car are on the brink, says CEO and owner, Ian Warhurst

Bloodhound LSR, Ian Warhurst

Owner Ian Warhurst hopes to find a buyer as soon as possible

Charlie Sperring | Bloodhound LSR

“Either we get somebody to fund it or we just have to put it into a museum and close the project down.” It’s a sad but realistic assessment from Bloodhound’s CEO and owner Ian Warhurst as the project is on the edge of extinction.

The Bloodhound car has sat idle, stripped down and cleaned from its high-speed test back in 2019 when it reached 628mph and things were looking promising for a record attempt in 2021.

Following its arrival back in the UK from South Africa, fresh investment estimated at £8m was always needed to keep its land speed record aspirations alive, but with the pandemic arriving in early February last year, so too did the realisation that things were headed south quickly.

“We got to a point where we really needed to come out of the 2019 test and go straight into the next phase of the project, so we were working hard to do that and then obviously Covid stopped that,” Warhurst explained to Motor Sport.

“We knew that it kind of pushed it back a year because it meant we couldn’t get ourselves up and running in the desert this year.

Bloodhound land speed record car during its 501mph run on November 6 2019

There’s little time left to ensure Bloodhound can return to the desert in 2022

“If we don’t get things up and running in the next month or so then we’ve got to the point where we won’t hit the deadline to go out there next year and we won’t go until 2023. That’s just too far out for everybody. We need a conclusion in the next month or so.”

It is not the first time the project has been on the precipice with things looking grim. Back in 2018, Warhurst saved the project following its slip into administration with the car moments away from being cut into pieces.

A phoenix-from-the-ashes journey from that point took the car to the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa where it achieved 628mph, well over its 500mph target, powered by its jet engine alone.

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The next phase of the journey was to fit the monopropellant rocket to the car and make an attempt at breaking the outright land speed record.

All data pointed to the conclusion that the rocket would take the Bloodhound LSR car clear of the 140mph or so gap it needed to clear in order to claim the record belonging to Thrust SSC.

But initial conversations with potential sponsors fell through, and despite a documentary running at the tail-end of 2020 reviving some interest, no concrete deals were forthcoming.

“There was progress, we were in talks with people and they started to pick up at around February last year,” says Warhurst.

“Just as we’ve got a few balls juggling in the air, the entire sponsorship industry shut down and nothing happened.

“After the documentary came out there was certainly one company that we were talking to that was very very interested. Had we known that funding was in place and that we were going next year, then they would’ve come on board and it would’ve been quite a significant deal.

“Current circumstances mean nobody is prepared to commit, which you can appreciate to be honest, but we’re running out of time.”

“If someone wants to come along and buy the whole thing then that’s fine, but only if you fund it and take it to the next step”

Warhurst arrived on the scene to save Bloodhound in what was a last-gasp moment. His takeover gave him ownership of the car and project as a whole. The original goal of the Bloodhound, when announced in 2008, was to reach 1000mph. That has since been scaled back to achieving the land speed record, still not a minor feat in any sense.

But as things stand, Warhurst and the Bloodhound team will fall short of that target after successful trials and the 768mph benchmark will remain with Thrust SSC.

Focus is now on creating the right environment where a sale can be facilitated and the project can go on despite Warhurst’s ambition of seeing things through to the end.

“I came along last minute and everyone was surprised that I took it on. We’re trying to recreate that situation with the car for sale that you can buy it if you want it. It is a bit of a last roll of the dice to be fair.

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“The real incentive was coming along and owning it. So I’m trying to recreate that incentive by saying that I understand that if anyone wants to come along and fund this, they’ll want more than to just throw money at it and have part ownership of it, or even own the whole thing.”

Warhurst has not named his price for the project, but says it will depend on who’s buying and their plans. Reading between the lines, a buyer who can fully fund a land speed record attempt may not have to pay a great deal to take control.

“I don’t want to stand in the way of being the thing that gets the funding in place,” he says. “If someone wants to come along and buy the whole thing then that’s fine, but only if you fund it and take it to the next step. If you want me to manage it I can do that as well. Or you can do a joint venture.

“If two people come along and throw half the money in each then that’s fine as well. I’m just trying to create a situation where a sale is possible.

“Selling after what we’ve done and what I’ve put into it, to just walk away and sell, that wasn’t the plan but if that’s what has to happen for the next person to come along, it’s kind of like me passing the baton on and saying that’s my bit done. Now you can take it on, have a go at it and make it a success. The project should come first, not any one individual.”

Should a new buyer or any significant investor fail to materialise, there are plans to keep the legacy of Bloodhound alive.

“If you want to come along and put money in the pot then you can buy yourself a land speed record”

Warhurst hopes to have the car on display in its full glory to inspire the next generation of engineers and allow people to learn just how much work has gone into the development of one of the fastest cars ever built.

“I hope to put it into a museum and have it be an exhibit. I mean it’s one of the ten fastest cars in the world ever and it’s an impressive thing to see in the flesh, and now we’ve got all that amazing footage in the desert showing it going fast rather than the CGI that’s been there for the last 10 years, which is really exciting.

“Hopefully, the car will go somewhere where it will continue to inspire people and tell people about the engineering journey we’ve been on.”

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For the team based out of Gloucester and the UK Land Speed Record Centre in Berkeley, it has been a long road to get to this point. Based on the data gathered during those 2019 tests, the car has the potential to set a brand new land speed record.

Should funding materialise in the near future, there is the possibility of the 1997 record falling. But if it doesn’t, there could be quite some wait until a team gets as close to the mark as Bloodhound has.

“This is one of those crazy situations where all the money and time and effort that’s been spent so far and it’s come to a grinding halt, but when the last person comes in now with funding, that will get you a land speed record,” Warhurst added.

“If you want to come along and put money in the pot then you can buy yourself a land speed record. That’s not something that comes along every day!”