Bloodhound is back at its base in the west of England, where the dust of the Kalahari will be cleaned off. CEO Ian Warhurst (pictured) needs R150m to further fund the project. Picture: SUPPLIED
Bloodhound is back at its base in the west of England, where the dust of the Kalahari will be cleaned off. CEO Ian Warhurst (pictured) needs R150m to further fund the project. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Bloodhound Land Speed Record car has returned to its base in the west of England after its successful high-speed testing on the Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape.

During the tests, driver and British Royal Air Force pilot Andy Green hit the targeted 628mph (1,010km/h), proving that Bloodhound has what it takes to go for the world land speed record in 2021.

Before it can do that though, there is the matter of raising about R150m to fund the further development required to get the car back to SA next year. Motor News caught up with Green and the business person who saved Bloodhound from the scrapyard at the end of 2018, Ian Warhurst.

Green says that back in 2008, when the idea for Bloodhound was first discussed, it was a tremendously ambitious project. It was technically challenging, with just the task of developing the wheels taking an incredible six years. Green is used to the challenges, though. He is the current holder of the world land speed record, achieved in Thrust SSC at a speed of 1,227.985km/h in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, US.

He’s not just the driver though. Green is also a qualified mathematician and is involved in many of the calculations behind the project. That’s useful because he says one of his biggest challenges while driving is “making sure my brain can process everything going on fast enough”. That job is made slightly easier than it was in Thrust, he told us, because of the number of LCD data screens in Bloodhound, which provide him with all the information.

Andy Green is confident he will be back in SA in 2021 to break his existing world land speed record. Picture: SUPPLIED
Andy Green is confident he will be back in SA in 2021 to break his existing world land speed record. Picture: SUPPLIED

Technology is not always as perfect, though at more than 1,000km/h you might want it to be. Green was not actually aware that he had hit 1,010km/h on one early morning run on the pan. There are three global positioning satellite (GPS) sensors that track the speed of the car and then combine their data to provide a true speed figure. One of the sensors lost signal on the pan and the screen showed Green he was doing 602mph. He stopped accelerating and started to slow the car down. Only back at base camp did the signals show he had achieved the target speed and so the job was done.

After nearly six weeks in SA, the team packed everything up and headed back to the UK. Now the task of raising the money to go after the record begins.

“We’ve proved we can do it,” says Warhurst. “In the past we tried to sell on ifs, but now we’ve proven it.” He says they have a 15:1 return on investment for potential sponsors and they are going out there and pushing hard to raise the money to go back to the pan.

There is very little time though. Warhurst says they need to be designing the next stage of engineering by the middle of the year if they are going to be back in SA in July 2021. That means finalising sponsorship by the end of March this year, just a couple of months away.

THREE GPS SENSORS TRACK THE SPEED OF THE CAR AND THEN COMBINE THEIR DATA TO PROVIDE A TRUE SPEED FIGURE

“I’m not going to pay for the next phase,” he told us. “It has real commercial value. I’ve done my bit financially.” He is confident that finding sponsors will not be an issue, particularly after the success of the high-speed testing in SA and the interest it generated around the world.

In a world where we are seeking environmental solutions, the team are planning on some significant changes to the original engineering plans for Bloodhound. To achieve the record, it will still use the Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine from a Eurofighter plane, but they are now researching using biofuel instead of regular jet fuel.

There are also changes to the rocket, which will be supplied by Norwegian rocket company Nammo. It has designed a zero-emission rocket for the European Space Agency which pumps hydrogen peroxide at high pressure to create superheated steam and oxygen, which in turn create the thrust required.

The fuel pump, originally a V8 engine, will also change to an electric motor, something that was not even possible when the project began back in 2008.

It all requires more computer simulations, more calculations, more engineering and, of course, more money, but achieving something like a land speed record has never been easy, or cheap.

As Warhurst points out, seeing Bloodhound move from a series of computer simulations to being wheeled out in front of Northern Cape residents who spent years clearing stones from the pan makes it all worth it.

He says he can see how people around the world have been inspired by the project and hopes that inspiration will continue, particularly among those who experience the Bloodhound Education programme to inspire future engineers.

It has definitely been a long road for Bloodhound, but it seems that now it really is on the scent of that world record in 2021.