Bloodhound SSC's difficult decadeby Graham Keilloh on 19th December 2018
Following the news that the Bloodhound SSC project has been saved by a new investor, we trace the ups and downs of the land speed record attempt since its launch in 2008
The Bloodhound SSC project is launched in October, spearheaded by Richard Noble and with Wing Commander Andy Green at the wheel, scheduled to go for record attempts at 800, 900 and then 1000mph by the end of 2011. Green drove Thrust SSC when it set the current record of 763mph in 1997 and Noble previously broke the land speed record in 1983 aboard Thrust 2. The budget is set at £10m and the project is to be privately-funded.
A full-scale model of Bloodhound SSC is unveiled at the Farnborough air show then is put on display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “We would hope to be able to shake down the vehicle on a runway in the UK either at the end of 2011 or at the beginning of 2012,” says chief engineer Mark Chapman.
Early in 2010 the project remains on course for a 2011 land speed record run with a radical redesign, a new headquarters, and a location for the record attempt finalised of a dried-out lakebed called Hakskeen Pan at South Africa’s Northern Cape. In October a full-scale model of the car goes on show for two weeks at Coutts Bank on The Strand in London. It reveals a fundamental aerodynamic design change in the past 12 months due to problems with lift. Also its V12 Superleague engine which powered the oxidiser pump has been replaced by a Cosworth CA2010 Formula 1 unit. In late 2011, Green says the high speed runs in South Africa will take place in 2013.
Green says the Bloodhound SSC project is aiming to complete the car build by the end of 2012. The test firing of Bloodhound’s rocket takes place at Newquay Airport in Cornwall on October 3, and the year ends with the project team aiming to achieve the 1000mph target in 2014.
Noble announces in March 2013 that car won’t run in South Africa in December 2013 as planned and the deadline to run in South Africa now is the April/May/June quarter of 2014. In July '13 the land speed record campaign in South Africa date is pushed back to begin in the summer of '15. This new date is the result of an audit conducted by BMT HighQ Sigma, the engineering review consultancy. Noble ends 2013 telling Motor Sport the aim is for a test run in 2015 before a 1000mph run in 2016. He says the overall cost will be £42m.
In September the Bloodhound SSC makes its ‘world debut’ on display at a Canary Wharf event, with one side uncovered so the workings can be seen. This is assembled as a ‘trial-build’ to check the fit of 3500 bespoke components; the team estimates the car is ’98 per cent finished’. Delays relate to closure of the Nammo rocket testing venue – set to be used by the team for a few months – as well as that the car’s rocket fuel impeller bearings were not strong enough.
Revised dates are announced in February. UK runway trials are planned for later in 2016 with the first 800mph record attempt projected to take place in 2017. The delays are explained by that “a number of major funding deals are still in negotiation”. In mid-2017 engineers return to the project after taking short-term contracts elsewhere, ending a 10-month pause on development. In September, China’s Geely auto group – the largest privately owned car manufacturer in China – is announced as the project’s main sponsor. Noble says 70 per cent of the project’s funding is secured and the aim is to break the land speed record at 800mph in October 2017, then to make some alterations and raise the mark further 12 months later.
In March the timings are updated with the aim is to do ‘tie-down’ tests of the EJ200 jet in the summer of 2017, and to begin the land speed record campaign in the second half of 2018. In September the car is fired up for the first time at Cornwall’s Newquay airfield and in October the first public runs are done. Using just the thrust of its jet engine, the vehicle reached 210mph at Newquay then in another run later that month hits 185mph after a sensor issue. Sponsorship from Belstaff is also announced.
In May a compressed schedule is announced amid a 'funding breakthrough' – the 1000mph run is scheduled for late 2019 as before but the planned 500mph runs are moved from late 2018 to May ‘19. On October 15 the company behind the venture goes into administration, leaving the project possibly to close within weeks and needing a £25m injection to continue.
On December 17, the project is saved after Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst steps in to buy the project for an ‘undisclosed amount’. Bloodhound SSC lives to fight another day.
For more on the Bloodhound SSC, read Andrew Frankel's in-depth feature in the January 2019 issue of Motor Sport.