It’s been a long time since our last post, far too long to be honest, so what better time than now to put that right? In truth the best time was last month as that was when I meant to write this post. That’s because last month we made the trip to Canary Wharf to see the debut of Thrust Bloodhound. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s Great Britain’s latest attempt to try and break the land speed record. Not just break it, obliterate it, as this group of plucky Brits aim to exceed 1,000 mph, the current record stands at a shade over 763 mph.
To my mind this whole venture is incredible and having seen the car and listened to the short lecture by the team at the event, it has only enhanced my fascination with the whole project. Let me throw some facts and figures at you. The car will put out 135,000 brake horsepower, now I can’t even conceive what that would be like, but I know that it puts the 95bhp of my Toyota Corolla to shame. It will take just 55 seconds to reach 1,000 mph, and if all goes well will pass through the measured mile in around 3 seconds.
Here’s a stat to anger the environmentalists among you. It uses a Formula 1 engine to supply 800 litres of high test peroxide (HTP) to the rocket in just 20 seconds, I don’t know what that will mean for miles to the gallon, but it does mean it is pumping the equivalent of 9 gallons per second, so at least in comparison my Toyota is economical. I should probably point out at this point that if you visit the team’s website they are keen to emphasise the very small carbon footprint that the project is making, although frankly I didn’t read that part in much detail.
I could go on forever, for instance about the incredible engineering effort that has gone into create perhaps the roundest wheels in history, apparently a trip to KwikFit for some reconditioned Goodyears just won’t suffice. Even these however apparently aren’t round enough to run the car on. You then need to find the flattest possible track, which has necessitated the removal of 16,000 tonnes of rock by hand from what was already a very flat dry lake bed in South Africa.
You get the point.
What I have learnt however is that my passion for this project is not shared by everyone, the response I have had when mentioning it to people seems to be one of indifference (although I should point out the thousands of people at Canary Wharf last month prove that I am definitely not alone in my enthusiasm). People don’t seem to see the point in the project, seeing it variously as expensive, an environmental nightmare or just generally pointless.
To a certain extent you can see why, Britain already holds the land speed record thanks to Wing Commander Andy Green and Thrust SSC in 1997. (Incidentally Andy will again be piloting Bloodhound at the age of 53 proving you are never too old to follow your dreams.) Not only that but Britain has held the record continuously since 1983 and apart from the 60s when the American’s took a bit of an interest we’ve been the only nation taking an interest since the 1920’s when first Henry Segrave and then Malcolm Campbell with his iconic Blue Bird cars started to push the boundaries of mechanical engineering.
It doesn’t even appear that the current record is in danger of being broken by anyone else, at least I am not aware of any attempts as serious as Bloodhound. The whole thing seems to belong to a bygone age, with gentlemen racers elbow deep in greece, before meeting Bertie for drinks at the club later. Very PG Wodehouse.
In a sense I think that’s what I love about it. Of course in the twenty first century it has to be very different, the whole project has had to raise millions of pounds in sponsorship and much of the work is done in laboratories rather than in garden sheds. However it is only by embracing the pointlessness of the whole thing that you can really understand it. What is the point in travelling at 1,000 mph? Well probably none. Will it improve road cars? I would have thought it doubtful. But it’s an adventure, just like going to the moon was or walking to the South Pole. Andy Green is the equivalent of Neil Armstrong or Robert Falcoln Scott, hopefully meeting with success like Armstrong rather than disaster like Scott. The reason for trying to break the 1,000 mph barrier is a bit like the reason for climbing Everest, you do it because it’s there.
For me it is projects like this which separate us from the animals. A reminder that life is for living not just surviving, pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible. Don’t believe me? Well this project only exists thanks to sponsorship from hundreds of companies, most of whom are small or medium enterprises that have given time or money to make this happen but will get almost no recognition from it. Or you could go the open day in Bristol later this month and see the car in flesh and how it inspires people. Make no mistake, this enterprise is no Manchester City, it can’t attribute any success to some oil baron in the Middle East, but to ordinary people.
So maybe I can’t convince everyone about how great this project is. Hopefully I have at least intrigued some people, and if it’s you I suggest you visit their website http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/ to see what it is all about. If not, it doesn’t matter because come October next year I will be glued to social media to see if they can break the record, and come 2017 whether they can go through that magical 1,000 mph mark.