Bloodhound British land-speed record contender is for sale (again)

Andrew English
·4-min read
Bloodhound land speed record contender - Simon Galloway
Bloodhound land speed record contender - Simon Galloway

Sharing the billing with Glastonbury on the “other-stuff-jeopordised-by-Covid” chart is Bloodhound, the 1,000mph land-speed-record (LSR) contender, which is back on the market, price unstated – but budget at least £8 million to break the current record.

The project was rescued from the administrators in 2018 by Ian Warhurst, a turbocharger parts magnate. He funded the team’s successful test in 2019 at Hakskeen Pan in South Africa, where the jet-engined car, driven by current LSR holder Andy Green, reached a speed of 628mph.

This was far in excess of the target 500mph and proved the team’s calculations and hard work; it’s also a strong indication that, with a Nammo rocket motor to boost the power, the huge car has a good chance of attaining 800mph, which would comfortably break Green’s own record of 763.035mph, set in 1997 in Richard Noble’s Thrust SSC in the US. First time out, Bloodhound got creditably close...

But Warhurst didn’t make his wealth by underwriting unquantifiable risk. When he purchased the car, he was very clear about the extent of his involvement, which was to fund the team to its first test.

Bloodhound land speed record car - Charlie Sperring
Bloodhound land speed record car - Charlie Sperring

He formed a new company, Grafton LSR, in a new base next to the decommissioned Berkeley Magnox nuclear power station on the banks of the Severn, with most of the existing team in attendance including Green, engineering director Mark Chapman, commercial director Ewen Honeyman, operations director Martin Davidson and many of the original mechanics and technicians.

“When I committed to take the car high-speed testing in 2019,” Warhurst says, “I allocated enough funding to achieve this goal on the basis that alternative funding would then allow us to continue to the record attempts. Along with many other things, the global pandemic wrecked this opportunity in 2020 which has left the project unfunded and delayed by a further 12 months.”

Bloodhound LSR owner and CEO Ian Warhurst in front of the Bloodhound LSR - Simon Galloway
Bloodhound LSR owner and CEO Ian Warhurst in front of the Bloodhound LSR - Simon Galloway

Bloodhound was originally inspired by Paul Drayson, then UK Government minister of science, businessman and amateur racing driver, who suggested to Richard Noble and Andy Green that they should go for a speed of 1,000mph. He was keen to harness what has become known as the “Apollo Effect”; the apparent correlation between the numbers of PhDs awarded to American students during the years of the US manned space programme from 1961-72. In those 11 years, PhDs rose from 12,000 to 30,000 a year then fell away in 1972 with the final Apollo 17 mission.

With Britain desperately short of engineers (it still is), Drayson believed an iconic LSR project would inspire a new generation of engineers – he even defined the age range: 5-19 years. So Bloodhound started and continued to be more than a Quixotic tilt at a four-figure land speed, it was an education project with tacit Government support; 5,500 schools, colleges and universities signed up to the open development of the car on the internet.

Andy Green - Jay Haysey/GLOBALSHOTS.CO.UK
Andy Green - Jay Haysey/GLOBALSHOTS.CO.UK

The team is still planning to return to the specially prepared 12-mile-long dry lake bed at Hakskeen Pan in 2022 to net the 800mph record, but without another owner the car will be mothballed with no guarantee it will ever turn a wheel again.

“In my opinion, the Bloodhound team has built the best Land Speed Record Car ever,” says Andy Green. “It made our 628mph test run look easy and we’re now raring to get to 800mph-plus to showcase this technical marvel and to invite a global audience to join in an incredibly exciting adventure.

“After the horrible 2020 pandemic year we have all just experienced, the world needs a good news story, and Bloodhound is ready to deliver it.”

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Read all about the Bloodhound land speed record bid here