A British team aiming to smash the landspeed world record are out in the South African dessert, putting the supersonic Bloodhound car though its paces. Here they explain how they are pushing boundaries
As the Sun began peeking over the horizon in the Kalahari Desert, turning the sky vivid pinks, blues and yellows, the Bloodhound Land Speed Record Team are preparing the car for a high speed test run: 350mph
I’m the communications manager for the UK based team who designed and built the ultimate straight-line racing car.
A team of 30 of us are here on the Hakskeenpan, in the Northern Cape, South Africa, to put the jet powered car through its paces during a rigorous high speed test programme.
We’ve already seen the Eurofighter Typhoon jet powered car reach 501mph during the test programme, but today we’re aiming to test the air brake doors at around 350mph.
The air brake doors are like huge carbon fibre elephant ears that stick out either side of the car; these generate drag (like sticking your hand out of the window of a moving vehicle) to bring the Bloodhound LSR car to a safe halt.
Following a team briefing the car was towed out onto the Pan, a huge dried-up lakebed 12 miles long and two miles across.
Once positioned on the white line, the Start Team set about plugging in the Air Start Cart (a small gas turbine used to start the car’s jet engine).
We cranked the Air Start Cart up and it started blowing high pressure air, but the jet engine refused to ignite.
It’s heartbreaking when, after many hours of meticulous planning and resolving some challenging issues over the last week, the run was cancelled and we had to return to Tech Camp to plug in the Systems Engineers and review the data.
Crestfallen the team trudged back to their vehicles and we returned to base.
After several hours the source of the issue was identified (the DECU - Digital Engine Control Unit - failed to send a Start Request to the jet engine) and a software fix resolved it.
By midday and with temperatures reaching the mid-30’s Celsius, it’s a quick lunch and back out to the desert with the aim of making the two planned runs.
Under the searing heat the car is lined up on the line and plugged into the Start Cart.
To everyone’s relief she fired up first time.
A quick radio check with the Run Controller: “Bloodhound is cleared to roll” and she’s off!
First easing away under "max dry" the jet engine spools up and Bloodhound rolls to 60mph in about five seconds before Andy Green, the driver, puts his foot down and engages max reheat (aka afterburner).
Some 20 feet of flame shoot out the back and with a visceral roar Bloodhound is off like a scalded cat, shooting to 200mph in a further four seconds and on to 353mph.
Green then lifted and coasted to 100mph before applying the front wheel brakes to bring the car to a halt 7km down the track.
What a great feeling it is when the plan comes together, the car works perfectly and another key Run Profile is crossed off.