World Land Speed Record Holder, and BLOODHOUND SSC driver, Andy Green today joined BLOODHOUND Chief Engineer Mark Chapman, Premier Sylvia Lucas, The Northern Cape Government, the Consul General of the British High Commission and other dignitaries as the FIA, the governing body for motorsport, formally acknowledged the achievements of the Mier Community in preparing the BLOODHOUND track.
Dennis Dean, President of the Land Speed Records Commission at the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), presented certificates of recognition to over members of the local community for their work removing 16,000 tonnes of rock from 22 million square meters of dry lake bed: the largest area of land ever cleared by hand for a motorsports activity.
Dennis Dean said, “It is only when you stand on the vast expanse of Hakskeen Pan and see the piles of rock stacked at the side of the track, that you understand the scale of the work done here. It is an epic achievement. Moving 16,000 tonnes of stone, by hand, in hot, dusty conditions, is an incredible undertaking and shows tremendous commitment.
Next year, Project BLOODHOUND can make an attempt on the World Land Speed Record, without worrying that a stray piece of rock might shatter a wheel or punch through the bodywork, and that will bespectacular testimony to the partnership forged between the team, the local community and the Northern Cape Government. It is in the best tradition of motorsport that people come together to share a unique experience – and that is certainly the case here.”
Premier Sylvia Lucas said, “Local beneficiation was of paramount importance and the local communities continue to benefit in terms of employment and infrastructural improvements. However, the deciding factor was the fact that youth development and education play such a cardinal role in this project. BLOODHOUND has had a huge impact on the local learners and this has spread globally. The excitement of building a vehicle capable of breaking the 1000-miles an hour record is serving asinspiration to an entire generation of youngsters and reigniting an interest in science and technology. And our children will have the incredible opportunity of being part of history in the making.”
Work to find a suitable running site for BLOODHOUND SSC began in 2007. Andy Green used satellite imagery and a bespoke computer programme created by Swansea University to identify flat areas of earth potentially suitable for a 1600km/h land speed record attempt. After discounting thousand of false hits and following disappointing visits to 13 deserts in the USA, Australia, Turkey and South Africa, Verneuk Pan in South Africa remained as the best option. The site of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s 1929 record attempt (at 350.054km/h) was covered with stones but close to the required length (at 18.9km) and very hard.
A subsequent survey commissioned by the Northern Cape brought further disappointment, however, when it was discovered that clearing the surface stones risked disturbing an underlying layer of shale, which would render the surface unusable forhigh speed racing. Verneuk was not the hoped for solution. The future of the Project was now in the balance.
At this point, Cape Town based helicopter filming specialists and BLOODHOUND team members, Skip Margetts and Rudi Riek, suggested another location some 512km to the north: Hakskeen Pan. A type of dry lakebed known as an alkali playa, it presented the prospect of a hard, flat surface, 19km long that would be ‘repaired’ by seasonal rains. A causeway dissected the Pan but was constructed from easily removable clay, rather than rock. With a new tarmac highway linking the site to Upington, 266km to the south, it soon became clear that BLOODHOUND had found its track at last. Work to prepare the track began in 2010.
Andy Green said, “Hakskeen Pan is as important to the process of setting a record as the engineering in the car. Without this place, without the support of the local community and Northern Cape Government, we would have nowhere to run BLOODHOUND SSC.
The car’s wheels are designed specifically for this surface. We have laser mapped the every square metre of it, capturing over 4 billion data points, so we can fine tune the suspension. Ron Ayers is designing the run programme based on the length of the prepared area and number of separate tracks we can lay down within it, and so on.
The track is one of BLOODHOUND’s key components and clearing an area equivalent to asix lane highway stretching from Hakskeen Pan to Cape Town, an achievement that our friends in the Mier community can be enormously proud of.”
BLOODHOUND Chief Engineer Mark Chapman commented, “There are many ways in which Hakskeen Pan influences what we do. The track is 19km by 500m, with large safety areas on both sides. This allows us to lay out up to 50 individual tracks side by side. This is important as we can’t run over the same piece of ground twice: the car will break up the baked mud surface as it passes. We need multiple tracks so we can build speed slowly and safely – going up in 80km/h steps, comparing real world results with theoretical data – and Hakskeen is the perfect place to do this.
The surface is hard, too, which means we’ve been able to design slightly narrower wheels that reduced aerodynamic drag. AV shape profile means they ‘key’ into the surface giving BLOODHOUND some purchase before speeds rise above 350mph and the aerodynamics really come into play to keep the car straight and stable. The desert surface also has a slight degree of ‘give’, which will work with the suspension to give a smoother ride, reducing vibration inside the car.
There are a few minor pieces of work still to be completed but, having inspected the surface and looked at the entire length of the raceway, I am delighted with the condition of the track and in awe at the achievement of the community who created it.”