The jet-powered car in action on Hakskeen Pan’s dry clay. Picture: SUPPLIED
The jet-powered car in action on Hakskeen Pan’s dry clay. Picture: SUPPLIED

Imagine taking just 1 hour and 23 minutes to drive the 1,400km from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

You’d have to average 1,010km/h, which is just what the Bloodhound Land Speed Record (LSR) car achieved on Sunday in reaching its new top velocity at the Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape, completing the high-speed testing phase of the record-chasing exercise.

Powered by an EJ200 jet engine from a Eurofighter Typhoon fighter plane, the car reached its maximum speed as it passed the 8km mark in just 50 seconds.

At the wheel was Royal Air Force fighter pilot Andy Green, who has spent the last four weeks at the desert racetrack incrementally increasing the speed of the rocket-shaped car. The test programme examined how much drag Bloodhound creates in a number of scenarios and at various speeds, using the wheel brakes and drag parachutes, and with the airbrakes locked into position.

Green holds the existing 1,228km/h land speed record — faster than the speed of sound — which he set in the Nevada desert in the US in October 1997.

The Bloodhound LSR team hopes to not only beat that but also achieve the magical 1,000mph (1,610km/h) mark when it returns to Hakskeen Pan’s clay surface in 12- 18 months’ time.

But first it will need to equip the car with some additional firepower in the form of a rocket. The EJ200 jet engine generates about 40,000kW — roughly the power of 57 Formula One cars — but even that’s not enough to achieve the goal.

The data generated from November's test runs will reveal the amount of drag experienced by the car, and will determine the size of the rocket that will be fitted to the car for the land-speed record attempt.

Norwegian rocket expert Nammo is developing a monopropellant rocket that will produce the additional of thrust needed for Bloodhound to reach its target.

Data from 192 pressure sensors on the car has been monitored and compared with the predicted CFD (computational fluid dynamics) models to check whether they correspond.

Bloodhound’s engineers found that in the final test run the airflow beneath the car went supersonic and stripped the paint from an area 3m behind the front wheels.

The project’s mission is to provide a showcase of British engineering to a global audience, says a Bloodhound LSR spokesperson.

The Bloodhound team’s primary objective is to engage and inspire people of all ages through the most extreme application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Phase one complete: fighter pilot Andy Green with his ride. Picture: SUPPLIED
Phase one complete: fighter pilot Andy Green with his ride. Picture: SUPPLIED

“Not only am I immensely proud of the team, I’m also delighted that we’ve been able to demonstrate that the car is eminently capable of setting a new world land speed record,” said Green.

“The stability and confidence the car gives me as a driver is testament to the years of world-class engineering that has been invested in her by team members past and present. With all the data generated by reaching 1,010 km/h, we’re in a great position to focus on setting a new world land speed record in the next year or so.

“A vital component in the success of our high speed testing has been the racetrack created here at Hakskeen Pan. It’s proved to be exactly what we need and I’m delighted with how the car has performed on it.”

The Northern Cape government and members of the local Mier community undertook the mammoth task of removing 16,500 tonnes of rocks and stones from 22-million square metres of dry lake bed to ensure the Bloodhound car could run smoothly and safely.

It’s the largest area of land yet cleared by hand for a motorsport.