One of my father’s possessions is a bound copy of the first few editions of Boy’s Own magazine. When I was younger I used to love looking through it as a window on a completely fantasy world. Fantasy because it was a magazine describing and old and unattainable world. I kid you not – one of the articles is “Captain Webb – How I Swam The Channel”. In a world where, at best, I would draw a dodgy looking native American complete with full headdress – Boy’s Own exhorted its readers to make a boat. Income was no barrier because readers were advised to share their fully leafed copies with “poor children”. For it’s readership it gave a glimpse of an exciting world of heroism and extraordinary adventure which was there for the taking for those who avoided drowning by any of the methods promoted by the paper. At the Goodwood Festival Of Speed I had an experience which must be similar to that of a small boy seeing Captain Webb’s first hand account.
Bloodhound SSC – the SSC stands for supersonic car – was being exhibited. I’d not even heard of the venture in advance but Richard Noble is overseeing a tremendous integrated project to break the world land speed record. Correction: he is planning to smash the world land speed record with a car travelling at 1000 mph piloted (you don’t drive these things) by Andy Green. The pair have some form having worked on Thrust SSC twenty years ago attempting to break the same record.
I thought I was too old to get excited about these things but the sheer magnitude of what they are trying to do is truly extraordinary. First of all they are clearing an area of the Kalahari desert so that the attempt can take place. They have a group of people removing rocks from an area 500m wide and 19km long to create a perfect racing track for the car – 9.5 sq km cleared by hand. The rain then comes and smoothes it down to a perfect surface. Just as well because the car runs on aluminium wheels.
The car uses a jet engine to get up to 300 mph and then ignites a rocket to take it to over 1000 mph for the race timed run. The vehicle uses so much fuel, so quickly, that it needs a Formula 1 engine just to pump it fast enough.
And how fast is 1000 mph? Faster than a bullet fired from a handgun, 4 ½ football pitches in one second, 300 mph faster than the current record. To add a little flavour to the venture, and to link neatly back to the Boy’s Own magazine which followed the Scott expedition, there is competition for the prize. The British attempt is going first closely followed by two other attempts. You can be part of the sponsorship at http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/sponsors/bloodhound_sponsors.cfmhttp://www.bloodhoundssc.com/sponsors/bloodhound_sponsors.cfm