I am unreasonably proud that in the limited edition of 'Thrust' by Richard Noble, my name appears in the appendix as a member of the supporters' club. In the absence of a dominant major sponsor, the club became the project's biggest single sponsor, providing 20% of the cost of the project. At times it was this support that kept the whole, mad scheme afloat - support from ordinary enthusiasts with ordinary incomes, who probably didn't even tell their friends for fear of being seen as nutcases.
Now a new British land speed record attempt is planned. Richard Noble, who took the record in Thrust 2 in 1983, and managed the Thrust SSC project which took it in 1997, will manage the project. The current land speed record holder, Andy Green, will drive the car. Weighing in at six and a half tons, Bloodhound SSC will be powered by a Typhoon Eurofighter jet engine and a rocket. Its fuel pump will be an 800 hp V12 racing car engine. It is designed to accelerate from 0-60 in one second and to reach 1000 mph within 40 seconds - a speed of 4 seconds a mile, faster than most jet fighters. The attempt is scheduled for 2011 (although, on past experience and any possible funding difficulties, I would be inclined to add at least a couple of years to that).
The Thrust SSC project was in progress as we emerged from a recession. Bloodhound SSC has been launched just as we enter one. People will say that it is grossly inappropriate to spend large amounts of money on such an apparently pointless project, when it could be better spent on health, or job creation, or foreign aid. Of course they will - and on the face of it they would be right. But I believe we need dreams. We need inspiration. We need to fire the imaginations of the children who could become the scientists and engineers of the next generation. We need role-models who are willing to risk all for an idea. It could be cheap at the price.
The Bloodhound SSC project's website is here.