The 1000-mph Bloodhound land speed record project is dead

Bloodhound, the 1000-mph British land-speed record project, is finished. After heading into administration six weeks ago, a backer failed to appear to right the balance sheets. The Bloodhound team headed up by founder Richard Noble and Andy Green required another £25 million ($31.3 million as of today) to guarantee its funding, but according to a spokesman for administrators FRP Advisory LLP: “Ultimately the clock ran out and the company had significant debts and overheads not the least of which was the rent on the technical centre in Avonmouth.”

“It’s sad,” said Mark Chapman, Bloodhound’s chief engineer, “because we literally tried pretty much everything over the last six weeks. There’s a huge passion for the project and great engineering and educational opportunities, but with so many other things to worry about these days people struggled to get past the image of a load of middle-aged men going out and breaking records, it was too hard to change that perception.”

According to one source, the team spoke to everyone they could think of including a series of wealthy individuals and sovereign wealth funds, but all those talks either came to a dead end or ran out of time.

“Despite overwhelming public support and engagement with a wide range of potential and credible investors, it has not been possible to secure a purchaser for the business and assets,” said joint administrator Andrew Sheridan joint in a press release. “We will now work with key stakeholders to return the third-party equipment and then sell the remaining assets of the company to maximise the return for creditors.”

Bloodhound SSC
Bloodhound SSC

Reaching 1000 mph on land was always going to be a tall order, not just technically, but financially. As well as overseeing the project to build the 14-meter, 135,000-horsepower jet-and-rocket powered car, Richard Noble, team founder and former land speed record holder, and his co-founder and Bloodhound driver, wing commander Andy Green have been pretty much full-time fundraisers since 2008 when the project was launched.

Sponsorship and project partnership came from Rolls-Royce, Castrol, Rolex, Cisco, Oracle and Geely, as well as the Ministry of Defence which loaned expert staff and provided the EJ200 military jet engines and the Northern Cape Provincial Government which administers the record breaking site. None of it, however, was enough to keep this highly complex engineering feat afloat. The public, too, were inspired by the project, donating millions to have their name on the tail fin, or to watch the first runs of the car at Newquay aerodrome last autumn.

But it was education which was always key to the Bloodhound project and in its role as a contributor to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) campaign, it has reached over two million children since launch, including 120,000 UK schoolchildren a year. Advanced engineering projects like this are a closed shop when conducted by motor racing teams or military suppliers, but in the case of Bloodhound the data was available at the click of a mouse and engineers were on hand to explain the inner workings and concepts. Bloodhound was always so much more than a tilt at a supersonic windmill.

Bloodhound's cockpit
Bloodhound's cockpit / Stefan Marjoram
Bloodhound SSC engine
Bloodhound SSC engine

“The prestige that goes to the country holding the record should not be under-estimated.” said Lord Drayson, who partly inspired the project at the launch in 2008 at The Science Museum. “It demonstrates a can-do attitude, the capacity to innovate and the talent of our research base and manufacturing sector.”

“We still need a showcase for just how good we are at inspired design and engineering,” said Chapman, “unfortunately Bloodhound isn’t going to be it.”

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