Supersonic Bloodhound gears up for record

Last edited: 25 September 2015

As the Bloodhound Supersonic Car makes its world debut, find out more about the vehicle that is set to break the 1,000 mile-per-hour land speed barrier for the first time - with some help from BP's Castrol lubricants

How fast can you go – without taking off from the ground – when you build a ‘car’ by bolting a cluster of hybrid rockets to a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine, and placing a Royal Air Force wing commander at the controls? The British engineering team behind the latest land speed record attempt is confident that this combination of hardware and skill will see the Bloodhound SSC (supersonic car) break the 1,000 miles per hour (or 1,610 kilometres per hour) in the South African desert by the end of 2017.

Currently under construction in an unassuming warehouse on the outskirts of the UK city of Bristol, the 13-and-a-half metre supersonic car will undertake the challenge over two years in a specially-prepared area of the Northern Cape, the largest and most sparsely populated province of South Africa. 

Bringing together the best of British engineering talent from private industry and academia, the team behind the Bloodhound Project also includes the current land speed record holder who will be at the steering wheel, Wing Commander Andy Green OBE, as well as former record holder Richard Noble OBE, today’s project director.

"For many people, ‘fast’ is the speed of Formula One vehicles, around 150 miles per hour, but our Jaguar Rapid Response Vehicles ‘fire engines’ will travel at that speed, if necessary."

- Andy Green

There’s a wealth of other experience backing the Bloodhound SSC as well. BP’s lubricant brand Castrol has supported 21 land speed records since 1922 and its green and red colours will appear again on the side of this vehicle. With a number of its products pumping around the car’s interior - from brake fluid to rocket system greases - the different lubricants and greases will be exposed to the most extreme ‘motoring’ conditions.

The supersonic car will use a 550 horse power engine – not to drive the actual vehicle, but to pump oxidiser into the rocket. Inside that engine, Castrol EDGE will be keeping all the various parts moving as they should.
As such, Castrol EDGE and other products in the Castrol family will be an integral part of the Bloodhound SSC in the series of vehicle runs that will ramp up through the subsonic (up to 550mph), transonic (up to 760mph) and supersonic ranges. Putting those speeds in perspective, Wing Commander Andy Green says: “For many people, ‘fast’ is the speed of Formula One vehicles, around 150 miles per hour, but our Jaguar Rapid Response Vehicles ‘fire engines’ will travel at that speed, if necessary.”
It seems the concept of speed is fascinating for many – and the project aims to not only break a world record, but also break down some barriers, where other motor sports perhaps fail. “We want to make sure we appeal to everyone – male and female of all ages - because we’re also trying to inspire a new generation of engineers and innovators,” says Tony Parraman, the project’s head of sponsor liaison.
“Driving very fast up and down a desert is an achievement – it shows human endeavour and passion – but we need more relevance to everyday life and that’s why we launched an educational aspect to the project. Many of our supporters, such as Castrol, have a genuine interest in skills development as they are engineering companies who are looking for a future pool of home-grown talent.”

With that in mind, the project is running an ambassador programme where trained individuals visit schools to share more about the Bloodhound SSC and the opportunities that science, maths, engineering and technology (STEM) subjects can offer. Castrol staff are among those participating in this global initiative, with sessions to date in schools in Turkey.

With shared values in areas such as education and engineering expertise, the partnership with Castrol fits on many levels, according to Parraman. “We’re delighted that we’re working together; with Castrol’s long heritage and success with land speed world records, as well as their extensive technical skills, it’s a fantastic partnership.”
  1. Brake fluid: Stopping a 7.5-tonne car from 200 miles per hour takes big brakes. Bloodhound will use motorsport formula Castrol React SRF
  2. Racing car engine: Bloodhound will use a 550hp engine to pump the oxidiser into the rocket – inside will be Castrol EDGE
  3. Rocket system: The greases used here will have to endure extreme conditions. These Castrol lubricants can operate in temperatures from -80˚C to 200˚C
  4. Hydraulics: Many of the car’s systems, such as the airbrakes, are hydraulically operated. Castrol has also developed hydraulic fluids for NASA
  5. Wheels: The 90kg solid aluminium wheels will spin 170 times a second. Castrol will be used to keep the bearings spinning smoothly

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