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Bloodhound LSR back on track

Britain's land speed record challenger is finally heading to South Africa for a new round of testing

By Dafydd Wood / Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Some exciting news to start your Wednesday with: Bloodhound's land speed record attempt is back on track. The announcement in March that Ian Warhurst, entrepreneur and owner of precision engineering firm Melett, had stepped in to save the ailing venture was greeted with jubilation by its supporters. There was still a degree of uncertainty as to exactly what he would be able to achieve, however, with both his own resources and the true state of the Bloodhound project unknown.

Now, though, we bring you news that having already invested a "seven figure" sum, Warhurst has committed to ensuring that cash flow remains constant at least through the first phase of testing. This means that the Bloodhound is finally set to travel to South Africa's Hakskeen Pan, where the team will not only gather invaluable data ahead of future, faster runs, but also offer highly-interested yet understandably cautious potential sponsors - of which there are said to be many - the reassurances they need to get involved.

Independent research by YouGov has estimated that as many as 1.5 billion viewers could potentially witness the record attempt live online, making it a highly lucrative event. And the availability for the first time of both title and livery sponsorship opportunities ought to help appeal to companies with pockets deep enough to ensure that Warhurst will not be shouldering the financial burden of the project single-handedly for much longer.

So they're going. Flights and hotels are being booked, the necessary paperwork to ship a 54,000hp Eurofighter engine to another continent has been completed, and both car and team are set to fly to South Africa this October. All involved are obviously eager to engage in the Bloodhound's first dynamic tests since its highly successful 200mph run in the UK in 2017.

But what are they hoping to achieve? Well, even the most advanced computer modelling can be inaccurate and, as driver Andy Green puts it, "there is no wind tunnel with a 1,000mph conveyor belt", so the only way for the team to gather the data necessary to progress is to test in the real world. Specifically, they'll be looking to analyse the car's performance during the transition between 300-500mph, where it shifts from relying on its wheels for stability to aerodynamics. During this time the solid aluminium discs, the rims of which experience 50,000G at full speed, will rise up from the 25mm indents they carve in the pan's baked mud surface to sit just a couple of millimetres into it, vastly reducing the amount of control that the driver has and making it vital that the team understands how Bloodhound will behave.

They'll also be full running a full dress rehearsal for the record-breaking 1,000mph runs - scheduled for late 2020 - using the opportunity to develop and perfect operational procedures, desert working practices and radio communications. Oh, and they'll be testing the brakes and parachutes, too. "Going fast is optional, stopping isn't", says Green.

With a total of 10-12 test runs set to take place, and terabytes of data to be gathered via over 500 sensors and cameras mounted on the car, the team is expected to spend up to a month in Africa. No rockets are required to reach the target speed of 500mph this time around, so the trials will use up what little life is left in the currently installed jet engine - which once saw service as Eurofighter development unit - before the team switches to one of its other two turbines for the rest of testing and the record attempt.

This is obviously good news for everyone involved in the project thus far, not least the local Mier community, which had spent years shifting 16,500 tonnes of stone to prepare a 22 million square metre, 12-mile stretch of the desert for a car which seemed destined never to arrive.

Speaking of the new developments, Bloodhound CEO Ian Warhurst commented: "I'm thrilled that we can announce Bloodhound's first trip to South Africa for these high speed testing runs. This world land speed record campaign is unlike any other, with the opportunities opened up by digital technology that enabled the team to test the car's design using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and that will allow us to gather and share data about the car's performance in real time. In addition, we're running the car on a brand new surface. The wheels have been designed specifically for this desert lake bed, but it will still be vital to test them at high speeds before making record speed runs."

"The section of the track we'll use is 16km [10 miles] by 500m, with large safety areas on both sides. This allows us to lay out up to 12 individual tracks side by side. This is important as we can't run over the same piece of ground twice because the car will break up the baked mud surface as it passes. We need multiple tracks so we can build speed slowly and safely - going up in 50mph steps, comparing real-world results with theoretical data - and Hakskeen Pan is the perfect place to do this."

It may have been a bumpy ride so far, and the journey is far from over yet, but it seems that the Bloodhound team is back on the scent of that elusive land speed record, then. Just a few short months ago the project seemed doomed. We're fairly certain we won't be the only ones to say that we couldn't be happier to see it back on track.

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