Until now it’s been a case of another day, another delay for the troubled and cash-strapped Bloodhound land speed record project.
But after numerous false starts to attempt a new world record of 1000 miles per hour (1609km/h) at South Africa’s Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape, project director Richard Noble believes that the audacious record attempt is close to finally getting the green light.
Discussions “with a major third party” will greatly enhance Bloodhound’s ability to raise funds and achieve its goals, said Noble in a press release issued this week.
“We are in the middle of detailed planning so can’t divulge specifics but we hope to be in a position to do so very soon,” said Noble, who led the project that established the existing land speed record of 1228km/h set in the USA’s Black Rock desert in 1997 with the Thrust SSC car driven by fighter pilot Andy Green. Thrust SSC became the first car to officially break the sound barrier, and it will again be Green at the wheel of the jet- and rocket-powered Bloodhound SSC in the 1000mph attempt.
“There have been many false dawns over the life of the project and we have, regrettably but unavoidably, tested the patience of our friends, supporters and team. The Bloodhound leadership team firmly believes this development will be a game changer … but we want to prove this, not merely hope for it,” said Noble.
“While intense fund-raising activity has been ongoing, the project recently suffered a setback in the form of two important suppliers goint bankrupt before they were able to complete their work on Bloodhound.
“In light of this, but with the very real prospect that our ability to raise funds is about to be transformed, the team has re-evaluated plans for running the car. The opportunity now exists to reduce the time delay between conducting the high-speed tests and the first record attempt.”
The supersonic project was first announced in 2008, and was initially scheduled to make its official record run in 2011, but funding issues have seen many postponements over the past ten years.
The latest plan is to fly the car car to Hakskeen pan in May 2019, ready to take advantage of a desert surface freshly conditioned by seasonal flooding, with a record attempt to be made in October or November 2019.
The clay-covered Hakskeen pan track, located about 250km north of Upington, has been under preparation over the past decade, and in that time over 16 000 tons of rock and stone have been removed by hand to smooth the surface.
The track is 19km long and 500m wide, making for a total surface area of 22 million square metres - the largest area of land ever cleared by hand for a motorsport event.