Britain’s car industry may be slowing down but British engineers can still build the world’s fastest car. Construction work has begun on a car that engineers hope will break the land speed record by more than 200mph.
The car, known as Bloodhound, is designed to travel faster than 1,000mph (1,600km/h) — far in excess of the speed of sound and the equivalent of crossing four football pitches every second. The present record of 763mph was set in 1997 by the RAF pilot Andy Green, who will also drive Bloodhound.
The time trial is scheduled for 2011 and will take place in a desert in the Northern Cape of South Africa.
The project was proposed by Lord Drayson, the Science Minister, in 2006 after struggling to recruit enough engineers while in a ministerial post at the Ministry of Defence. He challenged Richard Noble, Bloodhound’s director, and Wing Commander Green to pursue the landmark project as a way of inspiring the next generation of engineers.
About 25,000 schools in Britain are signed up to the Bloodhound education programme, which uses aspects of the project to explain and demonstrate mathematics, science and engineering. The project also has a growing internet following and there will be a live video from the cockpit that will be streamed on the internet during the time trial.
“If it gets kids from around the world motivated and we only get to 950mph then it’ll be worth it. If we get to 1,000mph and nobody cares we’ll have failed,” Wing Commander Green said.
The car’s pencil-shaped shell is made from forged aerospace-grade aluminium. Three engines lie under the bonnet: a 400kg (900lb) Eurofighter Typhoon jet engine, a rocket and a third engine to pump fuel through to the rocket. The combination should produce 135,000 horsepower — equivalent to the power of 180 Formula One cars.
Wing Commander Green, 46, will lie feet-first in Bloodhound. As the car accelerates to 1,050mph in 40 seconds he will experience a force of 2.5G, or about twice his body weight. As he decelerates, experiencing forces of up to 3G, the blood will drain from his head to his feet and he could black out. He will prepare for the trial by flying upside down in a stunt aircraft. “A huge advantage is that I’ve got 20 years’ experience of flying fast jets,” he said.
Wing Commander Green said that technological progress in the past decade made him confident of success.
ThrustSSC, in which Wing Commander Green set his record at Black Rock Desert, Nevada, is the only car to have broken the sound barrier. It was engineered to cope with the severe turbulence that might have been created by the sonic boom. In practice the turbulence was minimal, a finding that paved the way for much lighter, sleeker supersonic cars such as Bloodhound.
Rather than relying on the traditional drawing board and wind-tunnel testing, almost every aspect of the £15 million project will have been simulated in advance using an array of powerful supercomputers, right down to the thickness of the car’s paint. At 1,000mph an extra layer on one side of the car would be enough to alter its direction and could send it into a tailspin. The Bloodhound project recently surpassed the Met Office in terms of computing power.
Despite the incredible speed, the risk of anything going wrong is low, according to Wing Commander Green. In the 111 years of land speed record attempts he points out that there have been fewer fatalities than in an average decade of Formula One. “I’m not saying that this is entirely risk-free, but neither is crossing the road,” he said.
Copyright Speakers Corner 2017