If you were hoping to see a fighter pilot drive a car at 1.3 times the speed of sound, you’re going to have to wait a little longer.
Despite a successful test 12 months ago, the UK’s Project Bloodhound has now entered into administration. The team behind the project has run out of money, and needs a reported £25m investment for the car to hit its potential.
Bloodhound SSC has been one of the most remarkable racing car projects ever conceived. Project leader Sir Richard Noble’s aim with the car was to raise Thrust SSC’s 763mph record before anyone could beat it, and move it so high it might stand for all time.
With that in mind, Bloodhound’s design and technology is beyond cutting edge. It uses a hybrid jet/rocket propulsion system, with an EJ200 engine from Eurofighter Typhoon to push the car to around 700mph and hydrogen peroxide rockets to kick on to top speed. The design speed is a cool 1,050mph, which exceeds even the low-altitude flight speed record.
Not only has the Bloodhound crew had to build a car, it needed to build a track too — no location on Earth was long enough to allow the car to accelerate and decelerate either side of its Mach 1.3 flying mile. With the help of geophysical data from Swansea University and a bunch of Space Shuttle astronauts casting their eye over potential sites, it was able to identify the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa. This provided the right surface and atmospheric conditions, but still required some effort to prepare.
That needed the help of a team of 300 locals. They hand-cleared all the rocks from the pan, removing 15,500 tons of stones. In total, they cleared an area more than 12 miles long and over half a mile wide — roughly the same as a two-lane highway from Toronto to Las Vegas. Bloodhound also needed new ways of communicating between the car and control, and a new timing system as the existing one was too narrow to aim for…
The effort and complexity means that, despite the incredibly experienced crew which also ran the Thrust SSC, Bloodhound has repeatedly missed its targets. The project started in earnest in 2008, with an initial record run planned for 2012. When we saw the car in 2015, it was due to run in 2017, and by last year’s shakedown it was on for a first attempt in 2019.
If this all sounds rather expensive to you, it is. Along with crowd-funding efforts, major companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Geely, Rolls-Royce, Castrol, and the UK Ministry of Defence, have all invested in the project, but ultimately it’s not proved to be enough and Bloodhound has called in the administrators.
This doesn’t mean the end of Bloodhound though. The administration phase allows for the project to put a pause on any debts it may have while finding new potential avenues of investment. With a car and track both ready for action and chief engineer Mark Chapman’s assessment that it could take the record in just ten months, there should be no shortage of suitors to claim the land speed record in perpetuity.
The administrators, FRP Advisory LLP, is the same company that dealt with Force India’s affairs in August, finding a satisfactory resolution in that instance. Joint administrator Andrew Sheridan is confident of a similar outcome for Bloodhound, stating:
“Bloodhound is a truly ground-breaking project which has already built a global audience and helped to inspire a new generation of STEM talent in the UK and across the world. Entering into administration provides some breathing space to identify an investor who will bring the guaranteed funding, impetus and expertise required to drive the project forward.
“Whilst not an insignificant amount, the £25m Bloodhound requires to break the land speed record is a fraction of the cost of, for example, finishing last in a F1 season or running an Americas Cup team. This is an opportunity for the right investor to leave a lasting legacy. We are already in discussion with a number of potential investors and would encourage any other interested party to contact us without delay.”