10 facts about the land speed record you probably didnít know

December 2015

1.      In 1997 the Thrust Supersonic Car (SSC) set the existing land speed record. In 2016 South Africa will get to see that record challenged by Bloodhound SSC, a vehicle with enormously powerful jet and rocket engines. It will attempt to break the existing record and achieve 1000 mph (1600 km/h) at Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape. Here are ten interesting facts about the land speed record that will get your motor racing. Thrust SSC set a really high precedent

The first car to ever break the sound barrier, Thrust SSC, really turned the motoring world on its head in 1997 in the Black Rock Desert in the USA. Built in England and driven by Andy Green, it packed two Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan jet engines which were also used in the F-4 Phantom II jet fighter. The engines produced a combined 22 tons of thrust. It burned so much fuel that it would be the same as having to fill your carís tank every kilometre. It broke the sound barrier and went on to record the still-standing land speed record of 763mph (1228km/h).

2.      BLOODHOUND SSC gets to 1000 mph in less than a minute
With 21 tons of thrust produced by its jet engine and rocket hybrid powertrain, BLOODHOUND SSC gets from 0 to 1000mph in just 55 seconds! That thrust converts to the equivalent of over 1000 small hatchbacks. It takes 3.6 seconds to cover one mile at full speed and would be able to climb to 25000 feet if it were aimed straight up to the sky. It makes more noise than a Boeing 747 jet at take-off. Even though it produces similar thrust to its predecessor, advances in aerodynamics and the way the power is managed will make BLOODHOUND SSC faster than Thrust SSC.

3.      It is going to be hot. Really, really hot.
With an average of just 200mm of rainfall per year, and average temperatures reaching as much as 45 degrees Celsius, itís going to be hot on the Pan when the record attempt gets underway. But the environmental factors are a small part of the heat build-up; the cabin can reach 150 degrees Celsius thanks to the heat generated by the rocket and jet engine!

4.      The car can take a real pounding
Of course, BLOODHOUND SSC has to be really strong to deal with all the forces at play. The windscreen, or canopy, has been designed to protect against bird strikes at 1000mph. Itís as strong as the windscreen on a Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet. The suspension alone weighs 30 tons, able to support the 7.8-ton car at full speed, where the weight increases to that of a humpback whale. The 36-inch wheels weigh 95kg each, and will spin at 10200 rpm. Thatís four times faster than the wheels on an F1 car.

The floor is made of steel, because any other material would simply be eaten away by the desert sand on the 19km travelled on each run. The bodywork will weigh as much as 12 tons per square metre, thanks to the immense forces it will undergo as the car accelerates.

5.      The engines provide 8x more power than the entire F1 grid
At full power, BLOODHOUND SSCís jet engine provides nine tons of thrust, and its rocket, a further 12 tons of thrust. Thatís more than eight times the power of the entire Formula 1 grid. With power like that, the 13.5-metre mammoth vehicle can cover the length of 4.5 soccer fields in one second, and itíll be faster than a bullet fired from a Magnum 357. It can cover 150 metres literally in the blink of an eye, and its own length in 0.03 seconds.

6.      Hitting the brakes feels like youíre having a crash
Three braking systems are employed on BLOODHOUND SSC. After itís reached its target speed and begins to slow down, the air brake will be deployed at 800mph (1280km/h Ė still faster than the existing record). Then, at 600mph (960 km/h Ė still faster than the speed of sound), the parachutes will be deployed. At 200mph (320km/h), conventional friction brakes will be applied Ė and the combined forces bring the car to a stop at minus 3g, making it feel like a crash in normal terms.

7.      Hakskeen Pan had to be cleaned by hand
A massive 21.5 million square metres of 10 to 20 000-year-old desert was cleared by 317 people over 120 days in preparation for the record attempt. 6000 tons of rocks were removed, with even the tiniest of stones picked up off the surface. Itís made up of 1-2cm of sun-baked mud, which sits on top of thousands of years-old mud. The crust is so hard, the sharp metal wheels of the BLOODHOUND SSC will barely leave a mark.

8.      The timekeeping is a science
Of course, a record attempt as costly, and dangerous, and has to feature exceptionally accurate timekeeping. Approved timekeepers and official, certified equipment have to be used. Times will be recorded for miles and kilometres per hour, but the mph speed is what makes it to the record books. Times have to be recorded to within an accuracy of one thousandth of a second, and the mean time (of two record-setting runs in both directions) must have an accuracy of 1/1 000th of a mile per hour.

9.      Andy Green is a thrill junkie
The British driver, Andy Green, drove Thrust SSC to glory in 1997 and hopes to do the same with BLOODHOUND SSC in 2016. He is a Fighter Pilot in the Royal Air Force, and has fought for Britain in numerous battles. He calls breaking land speed records his Ďholiday jobí, having taken the diesel-powered JCB DIESELMAX Ė the fastest diesel car in the world - to 350mph (560km/h) in 2006.

10.   Local communities are being uplifted in the process
As you can imagine, such an enormous project located in such a far-reaching corner of South Africa, near the border with Namibia, can only mean great things for the small rural communities in the region. Employment has been generated for over 300 locals, and due to the need for water for 60000 people at the time of the event, a 150km pipeline will bring fresh water to villages and farms in the area, supporting about 10000 people. 

Download the AA eCard app | Roadside assist | Tools & guides | Travel | Legal | Sitemap