VOLUME XXI, NUMBER 12 - DECEMBER, 2019
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Editor & Publisher
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ET DRAG RACING
Words and photos by Tom McCarthy
On Saturday, November 16, 2019, within the South African Northern Cape out on the Hakskeenpan, a white dart came slicing through the early morning mirage like a Kalahari Bushman’s white-tipped arrow parting through the still, cool, air. From just off roadway R31, near the town of Reitfontein, the car known as Bloodhound began its final run of the HST (High Speed Testing) program, achieving a top speed of 628 MPH.
For the high velocity freaks out there, that’s 921 feet per second, or slightly quicker than the speed of the average 45 ACP bullet fired from a model 1911 Colt 45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Yes, a car faster than a speeding bullet, came blasting across this section of the Kalahari Desert that day.
On this morning, as it ripped across the “Pan,” as dry lake beds are called there, it sent clouds of dust billowing many feet into the air as the local camel spiders went scurrying about for cover under the hard-crusty surface.
Rocketry engineers from Nammo were present for some of the High Speed Testing to gather vital information Here Adrian Borien and Jan Sturla Hegre of Nammo confer with George Morris of the Bloodhound team.
Prior to every run, Jessica Kinsman in Race Control, needs to know and confirm the exact location of everyone out on the race course to insure the safety of all and the race car. Note the bottle cap in the mix labeled “Boss” -- that’s Ian Warhurst.
The accomplishment was over a decade in the making overall. The Bloodhound SSC was first announced as a project undertaken by lead men Richard Noble, along with his driver Andy Green, on 23 October in the year 2008, as an effort to break the existing record of 763 MPH, which they set together in October of 1997 with Richard’s Thrust SSC car.
The robust, well-designed composite air breaking doors were first put to use out on the Hakskeenpan.
The tip of Bloodhound is made from titanium to deflect pressure waves and ward off frictional heat buildup during super-sonic travel.
This new car, “The Bloodhound” was conceived to not only break the existing record but go at least 800 MPH in the process, to pave the way for an outrageous mark of 1,000 MPH, as target for the apogee of their efforts. Their greatest goal is not just new world records for speed, but to help inspire a whole new generation of students who will gravitate into engineering fields to further STEM education in young minds that could one day benefit us all.
Driver Andy Green (left) and owner Ian Warhurst
It’s the dreamers who build a better tomorrow beginning with inspiration and a better education. To say that the creators of Bloodhound are ambitious with their hearts and minds in the right place is an accurate statement.
The start team, from left, Mark Chapman, Tony Dineen, Milton Roach and Mark Blackwell.
Bloodhound is kept in its tented garage before and after every run while the team acquires vital run data and check systems between run profiles.
The land speed record car known as Bloodhound first came to life in the United Kingdom, where it was designed and born by some of the best minds in British engineering, led by Richard Noble OBE. It breathed its first breaths at Cornwall airport with its Rolls Royce EJ200 engine achieving re-heat effortlessly and roared down the runway at over 200 MPH with ease in October of 2017. After a near decade of constructing the car, it announced to the world it was ready to begin the hunt – to first break the existing world land speed record of 763 MPH, then press on to reach and or exceed its design speed of 1,000 MPH. Now that as of November 2019 the car has once again gone to afterburner, the hunt begins in earnest for the car and the team to perform to their potential.
After it’s successful outing in October of 2017, due to financial difficulties, one year later, Bloodhound Programme LTD went into financial administration and in December of 2018 the car was about to be cut up and sold for scrap. Then, a businessman with a love of cars stepped forward and saved the project. Ian Warhurst, a man with a deep and abiding love of fine cars, which he loves to restore as a hobby, decided he would rescue the Bloodhound and see it onto a new path. First, he bought the car and all necessary equipment associated with it, along with the intellectual properties. He then hired essential staff and moved the operation from Bristol Harborside, UK, to a new shop in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, for a fresh start.
The Bloodhound Project as it is now known (Grafton LSR LTD) has many goals it seeks to achieve, such as surpassing the current land speed record of 763.035 MPH and going super-sonic in the process. To do this, new marketing partners are needed to be brought on board as sponsors for the project. It will take a significant amount of money to see this car safely to its potential.
As of December 2019, millions of dollars are to be expended to develop and install a monopropellant hybrid rocket propulsion system designed by Nammo of Norway. This power booster will be fueled by concentrated hydrogen peroxide to provide the additional thrust needed to push Bloodhound to super-sonic speeds. Then, of course, the team and the car will have to return to South Africa and prepare for the testing of the new propulsion system and make important decisions about pressing on to break the existing world land speed record.
In order for The Bloodhound Project to achieve a new world Land Speed Record (LSR) in accordance with FIA standards, it will have to not only surpass the speed of sound but go beyond 763 MPH, and when they do, the team will have one hour to reverse direction and again exceed the existing LSR mark. The average of the two runs will establish the new miles-per-hour mark.
Then and only then will the new car owner, Ian Warhurst, decide if this project will move forward to go for 1,000 MPH, the original design intended speed for the car. Ian is adamant that driver safety is number one and how the car behaves at speeds in excess of Mach 1 will determine exactly how far he will allow the design of the car to be pushed.
Weather stations are located every two kilometers along the race course. A crosswind of over 10 mph measured by any station will halt or delay a run. 5 a.m. team briefings and sunrise rollouts were the norm at base camp to beat the heat and avoid the winds that pick up each day.
Bloodhound begins its deceleration after achieving 562 mph.
The 2019 HST, or High-Speed Testing program if you prefer, was a solid success in every way for the team. Not only did the car perform as intended, but with 192 air pressure sensors on the car and with various precision measurement equipment in the right places, it was a great engineering accomplishment for the designers and builders to find out that over 90% of their advanced computations for the car actually played out as predicted under racing conditions.
In looking to the future, how exactly a race car will behave once past the speed of sound with a full pressure wave coming off the car is not something well understood by modern science. In looking back at how the aircraft industry addressed this, initially there were all kinds of wild theories about what would happen to aircraft prior to the speed of sound being breached on October 14, 1947. Back then, when test pilot Chuck Yeager pushed the Bell X-1 aircraft to Mach 1.06, he was the first to experience the effects of a pressure wave in horizontal full continuous flight. It was not only a great achievement, but a valued aviation history lesson that paved the way for modern fighter aircraft, which now regularly exceed Mach 1 with ease.
Will “The Bloodhound Project” advance and boldly go where no race car has ever gone before to speeds close to or beyond 800 MPH? There’s more than one team out there now making plans to do exactly that. Andy Green, the driver of Bloodhound, has the current world Land Speed Record of 763.035 MPH, and he’s the only man alive today who has made repeated runs at these speeds above Mach 1. To set a new world record, the car will be traveling at the velocity of a 357 Magnum handgun bullet, roughly 1340/fps, which by the way, just happens to be in the same neighborhood as 1,000 MPH.
There is no doubt in this author’s mind that this team has what it takes to bring LSR racing to the next level.
It must be noted they have not come this far alone and, indeed, The Bloodhound Project knows this and they are grateful for the support of the South African Government. The local municipalities of Rietfontein, Groot Mier, Klein Mier, Askham and Andriesvale, have all contributed to the success of this endeavor.
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