SA to host landspeed record attempt

22 November 2011

South Africa’s Northern Cape province is set to become the focus of speed freaks worldwide when an attempt on the world land speed record is made at the 19-kilometre Hakskeen Pan in 2013.

Located about 160 kilometres north of the town of Upington, the site has been chosen for an attempt on the record of 1 227 km/h (763 mph), which has stood behind the name of Andy Green and Thrust SSC since 1997.

That record-setting performance marked the first time a car had broken the speed of sound. Now, the same team, led by project director Richard Noble and Green, is back for another mind-blowing record attempt.

Green, a Royal Air Force pilot, will once again take charge of the car, hoping to steer the new challenger, named Bloodhound SSC, to a speed of 1 609 km/h (1 000 mph). At that speed, it would cover four-and-a-half football fields in one second – faster than a bullet fired by a .357 Magnum.

Should the record attempt be successful, and 1 609 km/h is reached, it would be the largest increase in the land speed record yet.

Ideal surface, conditions for record attempt

Not only is Hakskeen Pan over 19 kilometres long, it is also five kilometres wide, and has a vertical variation of only 61 millimetres over the entire two-kilometre distance of the run, making the pan’s surface ideal for a record attempt.

Weather conditions are also ideal, factors which were confirmed by Green and his team during a recent visit to South Africa.

Hakskeen Pan was chosen over 34 other locations after a satellite programme identified level strips of land around the world that could handle a vehicle weighing 6.5 tonnes travelling at high speeds.

For a record attempt to be successful, the car must complete two runs within the space of an hour, with the average times calculated as the new record.

“The ability to control the car’s stopping, and therefore the turnaround time, is key to the success of the record attempt,” the official Bloodhound website notes.

Power of 180 Formula One cars combined

Bloodhound will be powered by an EJ200 jet engine from a Typhoon fighter jet, which will be placed on top of a prototype hybrid rocket. Together, they will put out 100 000 KW or, as some clever people have noted, the equivalent of 180 Formula One cars.

Apart from the focus on speed and the record, Green recently told a local gathering that Bloodhound is about more than breaking records.

“Yes, we want to break the record,” he said, “but we also want to create a global showcase for science and technology.

“The UK, Europe and South Africa have a critical shortage of engineers and scientists. We hope the project will inspire young people to become engineers, mathematicians and scientists.”

Ben Evans, a computational fluid dynamics researcher, says on the Bloodhound SSC website: “We have to remember that this is an adventure, it is an engineering adventure. We don’t know what the final outcome is going to be, and even if we don’t get to 1 000 mph it won’t necessarily be a failure if what we have done has inspired people.”

Project director Richard Noble commented: “This is the most extraordinary project I have ever been involved in. What we are doing is creating the most advanced land speed car that has ever been built.”

Boost for jobs, tourism

The Northern Cape Tourism Authority GM for business tourism, Peter, Mckuchane, says the speed record attempt will bring about much-needed employment opportunities in the province, which has undertaken to prepare Hakskeen Pan for the world landspeed record runs, with the first trials to start early in 2012.

Additional job opportunities will be created running up to the event, with 315 unemployed locals tasked with clearing the track of stones and debris, critical for such a dangerous event as even the smallest stones become bullet-like at such high speeds.

The clean-up project will be undertaken through the national Expanded Public Works Programme and will take about six months to complete. The event is expected to spawn more opportunities in tourism and extreme sports.

“The Northern Cape government believes the record attempt has the potential to generate a lot of future interest and, if the attempt is successful, could turn the area into a tourist hub where similar events can be hosted in the future, as it will be the fastest track in the world,” Mckuchane reckoned.

The event itself is expected to draw thousands of spectators to the area.

SAinfo reporter and MediaClubSouthAfrica.com – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.