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23.10.2008 Technology

Supersonic car targets 1,000mph

By Daily Guide

The British team that claimed the land speed record in 1997, taking a car through the sound barrier for the first time, is planning to go even faster. RAF pilot Andy Green made history in 1997 when he drove the Thrust SSC jet-powered vehicle at 763mph (1,228km/h).

Now he intends to get behind the wheel of a car that is capable of reaching 1,000mph (1,610km/h).

Known as Bloodhound, the new car will be powered by a rocket bolted to a Typhoon-Eurofighter jet engine.

The team-members have been working on the concept for the past 18 months and expect to be ready to make their new record attempt in 2011.

Bloodhound project leader Richard Noble told BBC News: "This is one of the most exciting things you can do on God's Earth; and when you've the opportunity to do it really, really well, with the latest technology, you can't resist the challenge."

The initial studies have illustrated just how grand a challenge it will be.

The 12.8m-long, 6.4-tonne Bloodhound SSC (Super Sonic Car) will be expected to travel faster than a bullet fired from a handgun.

Its 900mm-diameter wheels will spin so fast they will have to be made from a high-grade titanium to prevent them from flying apart.

The car will accelerate from 0-1,050mph (1,690km/h) in just 40 seconds; and at its maximum velocity, the pressure of air bearing down on its carbon fibre and titanium bodywork will exceed 12 tonnes per square metre.

"This is a big engineering adventure," commented Bloodhound's technical chief, John Piper.

"We've not seen anything yet which we can't overcome given the opportunity and the time. We don't have all the answers yet, but we have quite a few of them, and I'm sure other solutions will present themselves."

Wing Commander Green acknowledges there will be risks involved but says the car will be designed to maximise his safety.

"Does that make it zero-risk? No. Is life with zero-risk interesting? No.

"This is worth making a risk for because it's a huge challenge and a huge prize at the end, not just for the biggest record but to inspire the next generation of engineers, to share it with every schoolchild in the country," he said.

Inspiration is a key driver for the project. The genesis of the idea came from Lord Paul Drayson, the UK's new science minister who also happens to be a racing driver.

He approached Noble and Green when he held a post in the Ministry of Defence to ask them if they could do something that would grab the attention of schoolchildren and turn them to careers in science and technology.

"The consequences if we don't inspire the next generation are that we will wither as a country," Lord Drayson told BBC News.