Supersonic Car Designed to Break Land Speed Record Is for Sale Again

A businessman bought it in 2018 to keep the project alive but the pandemic has thrown off the schedule

An image of the supersonic car at sunset with two people standing to its left.
The Bloodhound supersonic car reached 628 miles per hour in 2019, but the team hopes to pass 1,000 miles per hour with the addition of a rocket Courtesy of the Bloodhound Land-Speed Record Project

The Bloodhound supersonic car has slim aluminum wheels, a ballistic missile-inspired shape, and a 20,000-pound-thrust jet engine. And now, it’s for sale.

The Bloodhound Land Speed Record Project began in 2008 to break the land-speed record set in 1997. Given recent advancements in technology, the team’s engineers believe they will be able to reach over 1,000 miles per hour. The project was sold to Yorkshire businessman Ian Warhurst in 2018, and in 2019, the car drove at a staggering 628 miles per hour.

Warhurst hoped to find outside funding to continue research and development through 2020 in preparation for a late-2021 test drive, but the Covid-19 pandemic interfered with funding and delayed the project by about a year, according to a statement.

"I've gone as far as I can with it," says Warhurst to BBC News’ Jonathan Amos. "I can't put any more of my own money into the project, so it's time for me to pass the baton to someone else to complete the job. And I'll be cheering from the sidelines."

The current land-speed record is 763 miles per hour. It was set in 1997 by a British team driving the Thrust Supersonic Car in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, beating out an American team for the title, Jenny Kane reported for the Reno Gazette Journal in 2017. Members of the 1997 team are now working on the Bloodhound, although they can’t challenge their record on the Black Rock Desert because of the effects of both drought and the Burning Man festival on the landscape.

Instead, the Bloodhound project team ran their most recent test-drive in South Africa. In 2019, they reached about 628 miles per hour. As Grand Chandler reports for Air & Space magazine, the team intends to ramp up their speed in a step-by-step fashion so that they can gather data and optimize their systems toward the 1,000-mile-per-hour goal.

The car is covered in 192 pressure sensors that help the engineers create computer models to study how the car stays stable, like a virtual wind tunnel. After analyzing the data from the 2019 test drive, the team will need to determine exactly where to place the supplemental rocket that will boost the car’s speed above Mach 1.

“In terms of the technology, the speeds involved, and the decision-making processes, a lot of it is comparable to flying a supersonic jet fighter,” says Andy Green, the Bloodhound Project driver and a retired Royal Air Force fighter pilot, to Air & Space magazine. “In some ways it’s a simpler task to just actually keep the vehicle on the ground on a prepared surface and [at a time] chosen when the weather is nice.”

Green also drove the Thrust Supersonic Car in 1997.

Problems arose for the Bloodhound Land-Speed Record project because Warhurst bought the project “on the basis that alternative funding would then allow us to continue to the record attempts,” he says in a statement. The Covid-19 pandemic interfered with their attempts to find that alternative funding. They had promoted the project as a way to test and prove new technologies.

The team had hoped to test the car with the rocket installed in autumn of 2021, per Air and Space, but the project has been delayed by about 12 months. To install the rocket, and develop a pump system to feed it fuel, will cost about $11 million, Nick Lavars reports for New Atlas. If the project finds a new owner, they will attempt to pass 800 miles per hour in late 2022.

When Warhurst bought the project in 2018, it was in danger of breaking up. He says that’s not a risk this time around.

"I won't let that happen,” Warhurst tells BBC News. “At the very least, Bloodhound will go into a museum for everyone to admire and be inspired by. But, really, the record is there for the taking."