July has been a fantastically busy month for us, with major public shows every weekend. The whole team is exhausted, but still buzzing – it is incredibly stimulating to meet thousands of people who are genuinely excited about the world’s first 1000 mph Car.
The month started with the British Grand Prix. I was very well-behaved and didn’t remind them (too often) that BLOODHOUND SSC will go about 5 times faster than an F1 car and can develop 180 times as much power. I did have to defend the Land Speed Record engineers once, though. The Virgin F1 team claimed that their car was the first race car to be designed by computational fluid dynamics and without using a wind tunnel. Not strictly true. That was how we designed Thrust SSC (the world’s first SuperSonic Car) in the 1990s (picture above) and now we’re doing it again with BLOODHOUND. It’s just taken Formula 1 about 15 years to catch up with us!
The next event for BLOODHOUND was the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Huge public interest, and some interesting visitors, including the Chinese Ambassador – apparently he only asked to see 2 things all weekend: the art collection in Goodwood House and BLOODHOUND SSC! I was left wondering if there’s a new competitor in the Land Speed Record race? I hope so – more supersonic competition can only help us to inspire the next generation with our ‘Engineering Adventure’.
The following weekend was the Royal International Air Tattoo, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Inspiring aeroplanes from a different age – and some bang up-to-date inspiration in the form of the Land Speed Record Challenge run by BLOODHOUND and Lockheed Martin. Seven teams of young people built and raced high-speed cars during the day. They were amazingly good – future engineers all.
Our big event of July was the week-long Farnborough International Airshow, where we unveiled the complete Show Car and the new BLOODHOUND Driving Experience. It was also great practice for being in the South African desert – the glass walls of our pavilion made it the hottest place on the airfield!
The Show Car attracted a huge amount of attention, both because it looked simply stunning and because BLOODHOUND was the fastest thing at the Show. It was a real privilege unveiling it at the start of the show and announcing some new sponsors – and then I suddenly realised that something huge had just happened.
When we announced that Hampson Industries would build the chassis for us, we were effectively announcing that the Project was now going to happen on time. Hampson will deliver the chassis early next summer, so we need to finish all the design work by Christmas this year. It’s no longer a case of ‘would like to’ – we have to or it won’t get built. We’re now on a fixed timeline and the countdown has started.
Add the support of Promethean, helping to get BLOODHOUND into every classroom in the country, and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers with its 80,000 members, and this really is becoming a winning team. And the best bit yet – we also had confirmation in July of our first major sponsor. We’re now finalising the details with this well-known British company – I’ll tell you who it is next month. With all of this going on, you can understand why there is such a buzz in the Project right now.
The BLOODHOUND Driving Experience proved hugely popular on the public days at Farnborough and was running continuously. There were some seriously good performances too – I’d better look out for my job. Senior driver during the week was HRH Prince Michael – but I’m sworn to secrecy about his top speed.
Our other software project for July was the new Intel animation of BLOODHOUND SSC. True story – this animation is so effective that when we released it, we got a call from the US to congratulate us on the new record! Have a look at the new animation and see what you think.
Friday at Farnborough was ‘Futures Day’, dedicated to the youth audience. We gave a couple of sell-out lectures and were then swamped on the BLOODHOUND stand for the rest of the day. This is exactly the sort of excitement about science and technology that we’re after – the ‘BLOODHOUND Effect’.
While we are busy designing the Car and getting the message about engineering into schools in the UK, we mustn’t forget that we’ve also got to get the desert ready. While Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape of South Africa is a fantastic surface, it will need a lot of preparation – for example, we need to clear a total area of 24 million sq m – that’s the area of 4800 football pitches. The first test-clearance work was conducted in July, with great results, by our South African ‘Track Boss’ Rudi Riek. Only another 23.99 million sq m to go. We’re very lucky to have the support of the Northern Cape Government to get this huge job done.
Finally, the most special part of the month was an email from a member of the public, after he and his son had visited us at Farnborough. He wrote:
‘In everyone’s life there is a defining moment which turns a person’s view and goals in life, and meeting you has turned my son's view on science and engineering. My son is a gifted child but needed a focus to aim for … [after seeing BLOODHOUND] he has decided to take maths and all 3 sciences and would like to study this at degree level’
Apparently, he also wants to design BLOODHOUND Mk 2. Good for him.
I was very moved by this. It is the ‘BLOODHOUND Effect’ in action, in one young man’s life. This really is a thing worth doing.