Break out the flags! It’s time to be proud again! Bloodhound LSR is on-track
Great Britain’s Land Speed Record car has arrived safely at the Hakskeenpan desert, Northern Cape, South Africa, states Iain Robertson, its home for the next month as the team sets up the car for its first high-speed test runs: Target: 1,000mph!
Great Britain (remember when we used to call our country by that name?) has loads of reasons to feel proud of its achievements internationally and Land Speed Records figure highly in them. In fact, the pilot of the LSR car (Bloodhound) that you see here, Andy Green, a former RAF fighter pilot, is the current holder of the LSR, in excess of 760mph.
The pursuit of superlatives (fastest, highest, deepest, greenest, best) is intrinsic to our country’s ever-present desire to be perceived as being somewhat larger than its tiny land mass might warrant. The historical relevance in post-Roman Britain was such that our kings and queens became emperors and empresses and, for those people old enough to recall geography lessons, when the ‘pink’ of Britain was represented across almost 50% of global maps, ‘we’ have ruled the waves and been responsible for the ‘letter of the law’ being adopted by innumerable (and now independent) nations worldwide. We should be proud of our Royal Family (well, the key members, at least) and what they represent to a very powerful Commonwealth.
For many years, the LSR battleground has been based on the Salt Flats at Bonneville USA. Many British teams contest but also enjoy the camaraderie of racing for miles across the baked white expanse, swapping times and, all too frequently, grim tales of near misses. After all, aiming to claim a maximum velocity is fringed with danger and often tinged with heartache.
During the Campbell family’s reign over both Land and Water Speed Records, the main rivalry came from North America, where the Breedlove family is every bit as famous. It is a spirit of both derring-do and adventure, equally present within such characters as Sir Ranulph Fiennes and even the much-beloved Sir David Attenborough, that our nation continues to find beguiling. Bloodhound LSR is the latest major effort, in a project that commenced several years ago but is finally reaching its point of delivery.
Firstly, Bloodhound needs to be reassembled since its journey from Luxembourg to Johannesburg by airfreight, before making the final 570‑mile journey to the desert on the back of an articulated lorry. The runs on the desert will provide a spectacular showcase of British engineering to a global audience and will be televised. The team’s aim is to engage and inspire people of all ages through the most extreme applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Currently wearing pneumatic tyres, which allow it to be manoeuvred more readily on tarmac, they also increase the effective damping of the car, protecting it and its sensitive systems from any shocks during its travels. They will be swapped for precision machined solid aluminium wheels ahead of the launch.
Once the narrower wheels, made specifically for desert testing, are fitted, engineers will be able to re-attach ‘missing’ sections of carbon fibre composite bodywork to the front of the car, along with the nose section, which is vital for effective aerodynamics. The tail fin will also be fitted.
The 25-strong team that flew out with the car joined an advance party, which has set up the 50 x 50 m Desert Technical Camp on the edge of the Hakskeenpan desert. As well as Bloodhound, it houses a temporary workshop, complete with enough precision tools to fine tune performance and maintain the car. The Bloodhound LSR car will be unveiled prior to commencing the high-speed test programme, during which it will build speeds in 50mph increments over a period of a month, by which time it should be exceeding 500mph and producing the required statistics and data to point positively at next year’s 1,000mph target.
Bloodhound LSR driver, former RAF pilot and current World Land Speed Record holder (763.035mph), Andy Green, said: “After years of work to prepare the car and following almost a decade of preparation of our desert track by the Northern Cape Government, we’re delighted to be here. The next few weeks will allow us to test the car and train the team, ready for our assault on the Outright World Land Speed Record next year.”
The 10-mile desert racetrack has been prepared by 317 members of the local Mier community, funded by the Northern Cape Government. They have moved 16,500 tonnes of rock from 22million square metres of dry lakebed to create the track, which is the largest such enterprise carried out for any motorsport event ever.
Bloodhound CEO Ian Warhurst explained: “The section of the track we’ll use is 16km (10 miles) by 250m, with large safety areas on both sides. This allows us to lay out up to 25 individual tracks side by side, if we need them, which is important, as we can’t run over the same piece of ground twice because the car will break up the baked mud surface as it passes.
“We need multiple tracks so we can build speed slowly and safely, comparing real-world results with theoretical data, and Hakskeenpan is the perfect place to do this. The surface is hard, too, which means we’ve been able to design slightly narrower wheels that reduce aerodynamic drag. The desert surface also has a slight degree of ‘give’, which will work with the suspension to give a smoother ride, reducing vibration inside the car.”
The narrow alloy wheels actually dig into the dried mud surface by around 15mm, when Bloodhound is stationary. However, as a result of the aerodynamics, as speed builds, the car rises slightly, with the wheels barely creasing the mud. They act more like rudders than conventional wheels.
Summary: If you want to follow the exciting action, simply log onto the project’s website: ‘www.bloodhoundlsr.com’ and give our British team your support, as it attempts to break 1,000mph on dry land in 2020!