The Bloodhound car was to have attempted a new land speed record of 1000mph at SA's Hakskeen Pan. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Bloodhound car was to have attempted a new land speed record of 1000mph at SA's Hakskeen Pan. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Bloodhound SSC land-speed project, which aimed to set a new 1,000mph (1,610km/h) record in SA, is dead.

The long-delayed and cash-strapped project was officially disbanded on December 7 after it was unable to come up with funding to continue. After being put into bankruptcy protection on October 15, the British-based team was hoping to raise about £25m to continue development of the jet-powered Bloodhound car and attempt a new land-speed record at Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape’s Kalahari Desert.

However, there was no reprieve and the company’s assets, including the SSC (Super Sonic Car), are being sold off to pay back creditors.

“Despite overwhelming public support, and engagement with a wide range of potential and credible investors, it has not been possible to secure a purchaser for the business and assets,” said joint administrator Andrew Sheridan.

Andy Green, who was to have driven the car in its attempt, said the car can be bought for about R4.5m and required a team of engineers and millions of dollars to get it running.

Green, a retired British Royal Air Force pilot, holds the existing land-speed record, which he achieved at 1,228km/h in the jet-powered Thrust SSC in October 1997 at Black Rock Desert in the US.

The British project has so far been funded by sponsors including Geely, Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls-Royce, Rolex and the British military, which provided a Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine for the car.

The 13.5m-long, pencil-shaped car hit 338km/h in a “low-speed” public test in the UK in 2017. The team, headed by former land-speed record holder Richard Noble who was also behind the Thrust SSC record in 1997, planned to attempt a record run in SA in late 2019.

The Hakskeen Pan track in the Northern Cape was cleared of more than 16,000 tons of rock and stone 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 cleared yet by hand for a motorsport event.

Big Brother speed limiters coming to cars

Big Brother could hit car enthusiasts hard with the European Commission pushing for black boxes and active speed limiters to be fitted to all new cars.

The proposals for the systems, which will monitor speed and safety systems as well as mandating speed limiting that changes automatically with speed limits, have been sent from the European Commission to the European parliament for debate.

The data-logging black boxes would collect and retain information “such as the car’s speed or the state of activation of the car’s safety systems before, during and after a collision”, the proposal reads.

The proposal’s European Commission sponsors insist it will save 25,000 European lives over the next 16 years.

The proposal is already set to be opposed by the German government’s representatives, intent on protecting an industry with high-power automotive outfits and its high-speed autobahns.

If the parliament agrees, it could mean the slow death of high-performance cars from Europe, with the mandatory installation by manufacturers of active speed-limiting systems, which automatically adapt to each speed-limit change.

The systems would not be able to be deactivated from inside the car, nor be able to be tampered with from outside it. Such systems are already available from premium German carmakers, in particular, but are optional for drivers to use, changing speed up and down as speed-limit signs approach.

“Speed-limiting technology was last year specified on around two-thirds of Ford vehicles [in Europe] for which it was available — proving popular with drivers who want to ensure they avoid incurring speeding fines,” Ford of Europe’s Stefan Kappes confirmed.

For safety reasons, drivers would still be able to exceed the speed limit by accelerating past the limiter, though the action would be recorded by the black box each time.

If the proposals pass the European parliament, the council will negotiate with member states to reach agreement early in 2019, and then all new cars will have to adopt the changes to meet type approval or they won’t be able to be sold in the EU.

McLaren 720S goes topless

McLaren 720S Spider has a retractable hard top so that hair can be ruffled at 325km/h. Picture: SUPPLIED
McLaren 720S Spider has a retractable hard top so that hair can be ruffled at 325km/h. Picture: SUPPLIED

Just weeks after showing the new McLaren Speedtail and introducing a new track pack for the 720S Coupe, the British firm has unveiled the new 720S Spider. Billed as its most accomplished convertible supercar yet, like all McLaren cars the new Spider is underpinned by the strength and rigidity of carbon fibre, and despite the removal of the fixed roof, the company claims there is no need for additional strengthening.

Rollover protection for occupants in the retractable hardtop supercar is afforded by fixed carbon-fibre structural supports integrated into the rear of the Monocage II-S. The new 720S Spider weighs 1,332kg — 49kg or less than 4% heavier than the 720S Coupé. Luggage space is rated at 58l with the roof raised.  

The same exceptional 4.0l twin-turbo V8 engine that powers the 720S Spider is unchanged from the Coupé. It produces 530kW, or aptly 720 metric horse power and 770Nm.  Linked to a seven-speed transmission, claimed acceleration from 0-100km/h is 2.9 seconds, 0-200km/h in 7.9 sec, and standing quarter mile in 10.4 sec — all these figures said to be 0.1 sec off the pace of the Coupé. Additionally, McLaren says the 720S Spider will gallop to a Coupé-matching top speed of 341km/h with the roof raised and,  if you dare, with the roof lowered, maximum speed attainable is 325km/h.

The retractable hard top can be lowered or raised in 11 sec, with the option to specify a carbon-fibre-framed, electrochromic glass roof option to allow more light into the cabin. It can switch rapidly between transparent and shaded at the touch of a button.

We are unable to confirm SA prices but we can tell you that the first batch of 720S Spiders will arrive here in March 2019.