How many places in the world do you think you could safely drive a car at 1,000mph? According to those behind the Bloodhound SSC, which should become the first car through the 1,000mph barrier in the summer of 2012, the answer is "no more than 16." And, actually, the closer they looked, the shorter that list got.
Bloodhound's Desert Search program identified 35 potential sites for the record-breaking run, from satellite images scanned for areas of flat, smooth ground no less than 12 miles long by three miles wide. They whittled down that list to 16 potential sites after considering climate, vegetation and other relevant local conditions.
Led by fighter pilot and Bloodhound designated driver Andy Green, the Bloodhound team visited 13 of these final 16 locations before, late last year, deciding that a 12-mile stretch of dry earth at South Africa's northwestern tip – Hakskeen Plain – was the best place in the world for the run.
This dry lake bed is long, smooth and wide. It's five miles wide at one point – which should be enough if Green has to cope with another of his famous "sudden moments of yaw." Its "playa" mud surface will be kinder on the Bloodhound's wheels than the harder salt crust of places like Bonneville, but it's still three times harder than most alkali mud. Visibility in the dry season should also be excellent – which is a good thing.
"It's not really the sort of place where migrating animals should just appear up ahead," says Green (RIGHT), "but then the big animals aren't really the worry. I should be able to see something large from over a mile away; I'll struggle to see a crow or a rodent, though – and at 1,000mph, one of those could punch a hole straight through the car."
Hakskeen needs work to make it ready for the Bloodhound. Before running the car at 1,000mph, an area more than 11 miles in length and a mile wide needs to be cleared of rocks and detritus. This equates to a total area of "more than 4,800 football fields," as "track boss" Rudi Riek notes. It's a good job the locals are excited about the bid, because they'll be clearing it by hand, in a workforce of 400 laboring for several months.
And then, after taking years to identify the potential of this place for Land Speed Record runs and months after that to prepare it, Bloodhound SSC will take less than a minute to get from one end to the other. But it will have written another chapter of LSR history in the process.Matt Saunders/Autocar