Why the record-breaking Bloodhound project has a future

Prior 9.11

Bloodhound is looking for £12 million – is it the project’s last shot?

The people behind Bloodhound, the jet-and-rocket-combining land-speed-record-attempting car, have been looking for more money for quite some time.

Now they’ve combined that search with one for a new driver, in what strikes me as the most sensible change of trajectory in the project’s difficult history. I had a ‘why didn’t I/they think of that before?’ moment when the story landed.

It has been trying to appeal to corporations – it should have appealed to egos long ago. The land speed record has stood at 763mph for the past 26 years, since Andy Green took Thrust SSC supersonic.

Now 61, Green has been in the hot seat for the Bloodhound project too since its 2008 inception and has already tested it at 628mph. Initially the talk was of 1000mph, but these days they just talk about going faster than before: 800mph.

Since the very first land speed record was set, one has never stood for this long. The costs are so high and, once the speed of sound had been broken, what, in the view of any big business, would be the point?

For Bloodhound, it was always to boost skills and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).

The car has been on roadshows and educational tours; volunteer ambassadors have been to schools and colleges and spread the word about the tech behind going fast. It was meant not just to create noise and speed but to create engineers, too.

It was hoped that big businesses would back that cause. And while many did, it was never quite enough. So since the world’s attitude to noise and speed has tilted, so has Bloodhound’s educational focus – onto green tech.

If it runs at all, its jet will run on synthetic fuel. Its fuel pump, initially planned to be a detuned Formula 1 engine and later a Jaguar V8, is now a high-capacity electric motor. The rocket’s emissions were only ever going to be just steam, oxygen and excitement. 

Alas, that hasn’t been enough. It’s not that executives in big companies don’t like going fast, but they can see that this is a risky venture.

They can spread the word about Stem subjects and synthetic fuels all they like, but the people on social media who shout the loudest and want the world to be the beigest will still cry it down as a bunch of silly men traipsing off to the desert to make lots of noise while the world burns.

The metrics, as they say, aren’t necessarily good. Which big company with shareholders to report to would look at the potential benefits and potential risks and decide it’s worth the trouble?

No, Bloodhound needs the one thing it can’t get from businesses with reputations to carefully manage: a massive ego that doesn’t care about how it looks.

This is in the old tradition of land speed record-breaking. It has generally taken individuals with deep pockets, who are bored by superyachts and who maybe have a little bit of skill, to stick a couple of fingers up to the naysayers as they drive past at supreme speeds – and in the process perhaps prove them right. But what a hell of a mid-life crisis it would be.

Bloodhound is talking £12 million. There are more individuals than corporations in the world who can spend that amount of money without having to justify it.

This might look like Bloodhound’s last shot. But I also think it’s its best one yet. 

Source: Autocar

Leave a Reply