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The Bloodhound Project South Africa, wheels and composites

South Africa, wheels and composites

Sunday, 30 December, 2012

I missed a few months of Blog – Sorry! My feet are not touching the ground! – A catch up follows:

I was lucky enough to briefly get out to South Africa in September, together with Richard Noble and the Communications Director Richard Knight.  I was there to have a technical meeting with MTN our Telecommunications Sponsor and also attend a gathering of all of our South African sponsors. The interest, support and excitement out there is building exponentially and it was high time to get all the everyone together and update them on the build programme.

MTN support is what enables us to connect to the rest of the world from Hakskeen Pan.  The Pan counts as one of the strangest places on Earth that I’ve had full 3G signal on my phone!  Yes really, at the Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape just by the Namibian border, I had full 3G phone coverage - I don’t even get that at Home in Bristol! MTN have done an amazing job to improve and expand services on the Pan ahead of our record attempt and are working closely with us on our live video and data solution which will bring further cutting edge technology into play, watch this space – thanks MTN!

It is always nice to meet other Bloodhound team members face to face that you have previously only talked to on the phone or by mail, and during this trip I was lucky enough to meet a few:

Skip Margetts has been our ‘go to’ man in South Africa for many years and together with Rudi, the local workforce and the amazing team at the Northern Cape Government, they have collectively done the most remarkable job building the desert race track on the Hakskeen Pan.  As we were on a tight schedule to complete some interviews and filming at the Pan and then get back to Jo Berg for other partner meetings, the Project had been loaned a plane for this very purpose. From 10 Km out, at 15,000 ft we could very clearly see the track that’s been cleared predominantly by hand - this site hasn’t been dragged clean by huge machines rather (to preserve the surface) its been lovingly cleared with brooms, spades, barrows and buckets and what’s been accomplished is nothing short of remarkable – I’m humbled by what I saw during my day on the Pan and find myself truly in awe of what the guys have accomplished in preparing the worlds ultimate race track.

Where is our car” was the often question from all the team and sponsors in South Africa – “we’re working on it” was my response! 

The 3G phone coverage and the work that MTN are doing to link us up in the desert is not the work of five minutes either! Gavin Coetzer, our lead technology man over in South Africa, has been hard at work on our behalf for years now. Working closely with Sarah Covell our head of IT and Mission Control Project Manager here in the UK, Gavin has been simply superb at supporting the development of our communications solution, linking us to and supporting vital ties with Technology Partners such as MTN and so it was great to finally meet him face to face. Gavin took advantage of the plane going to the Pan to also come and check it out for himself and in the process managed to smuggle his mountain bike on board too - So Gavin is the first person to ride a push bike the entire length of the world’s fastest race track - there is only one first time and Gavin’s already done it!

Being out in South Africa, although fantastic to see, has meant that on return we were all playing catch up! -  The post summer break manufacturing period has presented several challenges so far - a number of which are still unwinding but on the whole we are winning.

Our wheel syndicate is now hard at work and, as I type, the UK runway wheels are coming together fast. This group not only deliver us UK runway wheels but also our forged desert wheels too. Thanks must go to Castle Precision Engineering in Glasgow for heading up this activity and being the lead contractor.  In support of Castle are; Innovaltec, (Design and Analysis), Lockheed Martin (Design and Analysis), Metal Web (Plate material), Trimet (Raw liquid aluminium), Otto Fuchs (Forged Material), Metal Improvement Company (Shot Peening), Amfin (NDT and Anodising) and WDB (Balancing).

On the composites side we are very grateful to the team at UMECO / CYTEC who have delivered the design support and tooling stage for the carbon composite monocoque (AKA Andys Office).  Changes in resource availability after the summer acquisition by CYTEC meant that we now needed a new partner to complete the actual layup of the final monocoque component.  Keep in mind we are not making a first off monocoque and crushing it, making a second off and crash testing it and then our third go is the actual Monocoque – we are only making one of these. So with a great tooling package in hand from UMECO / CYTEC, we needed a great Composite Manufacturing Technology Partner, that was up for the significant challenge that the world’s fastest car monocoque presents.  

Enter URT in Bognor- URT have a wealth of experience in Motorsport, defence, aerospace and multiple other industries and most importantly have both the skills and many years of experience required to do a great job of this unique one off component.  As I write this, we have completed the transfer of tooling and resources and URT have grabbed the bull by the horns and are working very hard to preserve the aggressive composite build schedule that gives us a car in the latter half of next year.  We will also be working with URT on the remaining primary structure composite work packages. I’m extremely excited to be working with the team at URT. They are already delivering huge value to the project and really embracing the opportunity that Bloodhound brings, which is great to see! – Welcome aboard guys!

So much more going on,   more news next month !