Even so, the project is already past its tenth birthday. It started in a pub at the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall in 2006. “It was all down to Steve Fossett,” recalls Noble today. Back in 2006 the late multi-millionaire serial record breaker and adventurer had plans to return the Land Speed Record to the US, and break the supersonic 769mph achieved by Green in Thrust SSC in 1997. “So I sat down with Andy and asked him if we were just going to take it lying down. Well, you can guess the rest…”
In the intervening years the jet and rocket-powered car has been massively re-engineered, never less than when they realised that if they mounted the far more powerful rocket above the jet the car could literally nose dive into the desert when it was lit at 500mph. So they swapped it around, and today it was announced that they were no longer thinking of using a Jaguar V8 engine to pump a tonne of peroxide into the rocket in 18secs, but an electric motor and battery pack. The reasons given are that the technology exists today in a way it did not a decade ago and it chimes with the times. Whether Jaguar was also uncomfortable about Volvo and Lotus owner Geely coming on board in a deal worth millions is not clear.
As for Green, I caught up with him before he climbed aboard and instead of a brooding presence trying to stay focused on the task ahead, I found him to be his usual, genial, fascinating self. Just a few of the killer facts he imparted to me today include: Bloodhound weighs about the same as a Hawk jet from the Red Arrows, it’s about the same length and has the about the same height of rear stabilizer fin. But it has the power of all nine Red Arrows Hawks. He also explained the strange procedure required to make sure the car does 200mph and stops within the length of Newquay’s 9,000ft runway.
“I have to shut the engine down and start braking at 130mph,” he explains. “The engine is fed by a digital signal and it takes 2.5 seconds for it to reach the engine and for the engine to start shutting down. By which time I’m doing 200mph. In the meantime, I have AP Racing carbon discs that don’t work when they’re cold, so I have to build up pressure and heat in those while the car is still accelerating so that when I need them, they are there.” He talks a little about what how he expects to find life at 1,000mph. “We just don’t know, which is why we have to take our time getting there. What I do know is that the car will be more stable at 800mph than 400mph so in many ways my life will get easier, and at 1,000mph the car is behaving more like a high-speed boat hull. At that speed, the front wheels act as rudders with their own, individual aerodynamic environments to consider. And the maximum G-force I will experience will happen when I lift off at 1,000mph. Without the need for air brakes, parachutes or any other kind of braking, the drag alone will slow the car at 3G, which is 60mph per second. Next time you’re doing 60mph in your road car, imagine what it would be like to be stopped one second later. I need to be able to ignore that, and keep driving the car.”