By the summer of 2009, Verneuk Pan in the Northern Cape region of South Africa was becoming our firm favorite for running BLOODHOUND SSC, despite the mountains of stones. It was the site of Malcolm Campbell’s 1929 record attempt track. Campbell was also worried by the stones and shale and a large team of labourers took 3 months to prepare a track 120 ft wide for him. We need to prepare an area 18 km long by 1500 m wide, about 40 times the size of Campbell’s!
What would have made Verneuk possible though, was the support of the Northern Cape Government. They saw that the huge global PR, the national excitement, and the close links with the BLOODHOUND education programme would all benefit South Africa enormously. The Northern Cape Government commissioned a full survey of Verneuk Pan, to confirm the work required.
However, it was not good news: clearing Verneuk was going to be much more difficult than we expected. A full survey last month revealed that the shale bed was breaking up underneath the playa surface and would cause us a lot of problems. The end of the road for South Africa? Not quite. There was one other option – Hakskeen Pan.
Hakskeen Pan, right in the North Western corner of South Africa, was initially dismissed because of a large dirt road running across it. However, last year a new tarmac road was built across the end of the Pan and the old dirt road became defunct. Could we move the dirt road causeway and repair the surface? Previous test repairs on Verneuk Pan suggested that we could. A final desert visit was called for – and in early November Andy Green and John Piper made another journey to Northern Cape Province. This time, the news was all good. Over 19 km long, 5 km wide, very hard and very flat (apart from some surface stones – and the dirt causeway, of course!), great access (the new tarmac road), nearby accommodation, on-site power, good communications, ideal weather: this was the location Andy Green had been chasing for over a year and a half!
Best of all, Hakskeen is in the Northern Cape – and we’ve already got the full backing of the Provincial Government! This support is vital for us. It’s been hugely refreshing to deal with a government body that understands the meaning and value of an ‘Engineering Adventure’ – and that wants to join in! Let the South African adventure begin ...
So that’s it. The desert search is over. BLOODHOUND SSC will run at Hakskeen Pan in South Africa – and at last we have a desert that we can call ‘home’ to the world’s first 1000 mph Car.
But where exactly is Hakseen Pan? Have a look at the map below. Using the zoom out button (the one marked "-" in the top left hand corner), you will see that it is right in the North West of South Africa, not far from Namibia.
How good is it as a track? Early indications are that the surface is exceptional. John Piper took the Ground Surface Test Rig (see Breaking Ground on Breaking Ground...") and found the surface consistently hard ... and this information will be fed straight back to the wheel designers. Here are some more pictures taken by Andy and John on their recent visit:
The smooth flat surface of Hakskeen Pan, Northern Cape Province
Testing the effect of BLOODHOUND SSC's wheels with the Ground Surface Test Rig attached to the back of a truck
Engineering Director John Piper checks the readings from the rig
A single keel is fitted to the rig to see what difference that makes
The effect of 5 tonnes of loading!
Here is the latest news of the track preparation ...