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Bloodhound Land Speed Record car rises under Grafton rescue

Nigel Morris-Co...

It might look like the tail fin from Concord but it's Bloodhound SSC, rescued this week by British businessman Ian Warhurst after entering liquidation last October.

The Bloodhound SSC project was launched more than a decade ago to follow up from the Thrust SSC. The Thrust project was the first land-based vehicle to break the sound barrier and still holds the World Land Speed Record of 763mph (1,228 km/h) set on October 1997.

It was poignant that the successor project, dogged by underfunding and difficulty in raising sponsorship, eventually went into liquidation almost exactly 20 years later. Bloodhound SSC as the project failed financially but on a technological level it was, and is, a fantastic achievement. Somehow, land and water speed records have failed to engage the public's fascination and like much of traditional engineering have become the preserve of men in sheds.

Not that there is much about Bloodhound that is "traditional." You don't plan to strap a man into a missile that runs on wheels and tell him to drive at more than 1,000 miles - that's MILES - per hour without using the best tech available, be it materials, techniques and concepts. That has always been the strength of the teams by Ian Noble for Thrust SSC, Thrust 2 and Bloodhound SSC. And none of that comes cheap.

Ian Warhurst, who made a bundle selling repair kits for turbochargers having bought Melett in 2002 after the sudden death of its founder. In 2017, after a period of global expansion and the launch of its own turbocharger range, Warhurst sold the business to US Industrial concern Wabtec.

The Bloodhound insolvency did not go as hoped: the administrators, FRP Advisory, originally hoped to raise sponsorship to allow the project to continue. However, by early December 2018, they admitted that was not successful and put the assets up for sale. During that period the British Department of Defence and Rolls Royce provided assistance that kept the project in one piece. That's when "a number of interesting parties" approached the administrators and Warhurst's bid was accepted. Then it all started to get complicated. The paperwork relating to the project was complex to ensure that everything was transferred to the acquiring vehicle, Bloodhound LSR Limited. Then there was the small problem of location : Warhurst has done a deal to transfer from Avonmouth to the new "UK Land Speed Record Centre" at SGS Berkeley Green University Technical College (UTC), in the Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park. One reason for the move was that the old premises had become too large once the car was built. The move also enables the project to continue with one of Noble's prime missions: to develop engineering students.

On a personal note, my son, James , now a musician and erstwhile kart racer, once drove the Thrust SSC simulator and, despite being very young, achieved a time that impressed the team. I am greatly heartened to see the project back on its wheels and very much looking forward to seeing its next outing which, because all the licences and regulatory approvals for the run in South Africa, may miss its window for this year.

image: courtesy Grafton LSR Ltd.

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