This morning, I had an exclusive tour of the world’s fastest and most advanced racing vehicle, Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), ahead of its debut at a free two-day public exhibition.
Let’s be clear, Bloodhound SSC is jaw-dropping.
Standing in front of the car you get a sense of what a fantastic testament to the ingenuity, skill and sheer bloody mindedness found in industry it is. A fitting salute which marries the pioneering spirit of the past with the advanced technologies and processes of today.
Bloodhound is no stranger to The Manufacturer, we’ve been covering the project’s research, design and manufacturing for almost six years now.
Get up to speed
Each month, Conor provides an update on the project’s progress for The Manufacturer:
- September – Bloodhound SSC: light at the end of the tunnel
- July/August – Bloodhound SSC begins to look the part
- June – Bloodhound SSC: up to speed
- May – Bloodhound SSC: Extreme machines need extreme teams
In that time, we’ve published numerous interviews, images and videos as the vehicle has progressed, so to see it – 98% – finished in front me was a little surreal.
Presented in record attempt configuration, with its 2m-high tail fin – required for stability at high speed – in place for the first time, carbon fibre panels have been partially removed on one side in order to show the technologies at work inside the vehicle.
These include the Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine, and the supercharged Jaguar V8 engine used to pump oxidizer into the Nammo rocket.
Also exposed is the intricate carbon fibre, steel and alloy chassis along with the complex internal skeleton of Bloodhound’s huge tail-fin.
Glimpsing inside the finished cockpit – a hugely complex monocoque crafted from multiple layers of carbon fibre – offers a chance to reflect on what handling a 13.5m vehicle riding a wave of 135,000 thrust hp towards 1,000 mph would be like.
Giving me a personal walk-around and tour of the vehicle, the project’s engineering lead, Conor La Grue explains to me the importance of Bloodhound and shares the interesting stories behind some of the vehicle’s 3,500 separate components – many of them custom-made.
Ultimately, he tells me, trying to reach 1,000 mph and smash the current world land speed record of 763 mph is secondary to inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, designers and manufacturers.
To date, 6,000 schools across the UK use Bloodhound technical content in lessons, with more than 2m young people having participated in Bloodhound activities.
Since the project’s inception, students have built and raced more than 25,000 K’NEX air rocket cars, supported by Bloodhound’s 1,000 school ambassadors.
“What’s fantastic,” says La Grue, “is that now the project is in its eighth year, we have seen some of the first students we engaged with progressing through school, college and university, and are now engineers themselves.
“Many of them cite Bloodhound as sparking their interest, the same goes for designers, scientists, etc., and that’s just amazing to hear.”
Bumping into project director, Richard Noble, he tells me that the level of interest from the public has been “incredible” and the whole team is excited to be able to bring Bloodhound SSC to London for public display.
“With the car now built and the track in South Africa prepared, our focus is on racing in 2016, “ he says. “That part of the adventure starts with runway tests at Newquay Aerohub next Easter.”
Upwards of 8,000 visitors will be among the first to see the vehicle – with the exhibition booked out within days of being announced.
With Bloodhound SSC the centrepiece, other exhibits on display include the team’s six wheel-drive Supacat-Angloco support truck, and the Mission Control Trailer – revealed for the first time, where every high-speed run will be coordinated.
Also on show are two Jaguar Rapid Response Vehicles – bespoke cars manufactured by Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations Division. The vehicles will be on hand each time Bloodhound SSC runs, carrying emergency equipment.
Of personal interest was the Castrol EDGE and Jaguar driving simulator, which uses virtual reality to recreate the cockpit experience of covering a mile in just 3.6 seconds. Keeping the vehicle in a straight line is far from easy – take it from me!