Bloodhound hits 210 mph in test for land speed record run

On its way to 1,000 miles per hour, hopefully.

It was actually 210 miles per hour, 10 mph faster than promised. The rest of the day went swimmingly, and on schedule, by the Bloodhound land speed record team.

"The car ran for 20 minutes, and it did two full-power runs, with full power for 5 seconds, and 0 to 200 mph in just under 9 seconds," said Mark Chapman, Bloodhound's chief engineer. "So the exciting bits were about 18 seconds long, but people were here from dawn to dusk. The atmosphere was unbelievable."

Bloodhound, which will travel at 70 mph simply on the idle of its EJ200 jet engine, had to be held back on the brakes before wing commander Andy Green floored it for 5 seconds. The jet flamed and roared on afterburner and then it was over. I might have given a little squeak; it was mightily impressive.

"This is a really big engine," said Richard Noble, Bloodhound project director and former land speed record holder, "and when it runs, there's a flame and a crackle and boom, and people think, 'My goodness, that's really something.'"

It was, and Green might well have thought so when he first came to apply the brakes in testing for the inaugural public run last week on the runway at RAF St Mawgan near Newquay in Cornwall.

"We've had some interesting times working out how carbon brakes work, because they do take a while to warm up," said Chapman. "The cockpit footage online shows Andy's eyes looking like dinner plates when he puts his foot on the brake and nothing happens for a bit."

Typically, Green took it all in his stride. He is one of just three people alive to have traveled at 600 mph on the ground (Richard Noble and Craig Breedlove are the others) and was hugely impressed with Bloodhound.

"The car is absolutely fabulous," he said. "From day one, it felt right: crisp and precise, you can feel it on the road; it's super. There was only one slight surprise on the braking and that was more to do with the engine over-swing."

This meant that the Rolls-Royce Eurofighter engine wouldn't shut off immediately when Green lifted from the throttle.

"That delay was a real surprise to us," he said, "because all previous jet cars have had mechanical fuel-control systems where a rod closes a valve and a quarter of second later, all thrust has gone. The EJ200 engine, though, manages its own fuel supply based on what the digital throttle request is, and it takes quite a lot longer to stop. That's why we do step-by-step testing so you don't find yourself going off the end of the runway at 70 mph faster than you expect."

The team now packs and returns to its Avonmouth headquarters.

"We'll take the jet out and take it back to Rolls-Royce for checks and a proper protective wrapping," said Chapman. "Then we'll investigate the possibility of driving the fuel pumps electrically."

At the moment, the duty of delivering 800 liters of High Test Peroxide (HTP) rocket fuel in 20 seconds is handled by a 550-hp Jaguar supercharged V8, but Chapman reckons that an electric motor drive could be a less frantic, more environmental solution.

There should be enough time, as the schedule has been extended 12 months. So the team will still go to Hakskeen Pan next October, but using the Rolls-Royce jet alone to work up to a theoretical top speed of 600 mph. Then the team will return in 2019 to break the land speed record of 763.035 mph set by Green in the Thrust SSC jet car at the Black Rock desert in 1997, and then again in October 2020 to have a tilt at Bloodhound's design speed of 1,000 mph.

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