Bloodhound land speed record project relaunched

The Bloodhound 1000mph land speed record project has been relaunched with a new base and livery – with the project’s new owner vowing to let it “off the leash” and start high-speed testing as soon as possible.

The project appeared to strike terminal trouble late last year after entering administration, before being rescued by Yorkshire entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. Bloodhound has been rebranded, refinanced, repainted and moved to new headquarters in Gloucester. 

The core team that built the car over the past decade is already at work reinstating previously laid plans to set a new land speed record on a specially prepared track at Hakskeen Pan in South Africa, and press on to beat the 1000mph barrier.

Rebranded as Bloodhound LSR (for ‘land speed record’) and displayed for the first time today in a new red-and-white livery, the machine is being prepared first for an initial series of high-speed tests in South Africa following a number of runs at up to 200mph on Newquay Airport last year.

The project has moved from its old base near Bristol, and will now be based in new premises in the SGS Berkeley Green University Technical College, in Berkeley, Gloucestershire.

The car’s new livery – a red fin with a white body – is intended to encourage new investors in the project, which for the first time will offer both title and livery sponsorships. Bloodhound’s original yellow and blue livery, from what they’re now calling the R&D phase, will still be used in photographs and videos, the new owners say. 

Warhurst has established a new company, Grafton LSR Ltd, to run the project. The name is taken from an 1839 painting by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, which now hangs in the Tate Gallery, of a bloodhound called Grafton.

Warhurst is joined in the new company by familiar faces including driver Andy Green and chief engineer Mark Chapman, along with many others from the original team “to provide continuity”. The team also now includes commercial director and ex-Formula 1 money man Ewen Honeyman, whose job will be to find new backers for the project. 

For the time being, Warhurst, who was eight days into his retirement when he heard last December of Bloodhound’s demise by text from his son, will provide “the cashflow to keep the project on track” until extra backers are found. Warhurst recently sold Melett, a turbocharger parts and equipment supplier of which he was the owner and managing director. 

“I have been overwhelmed by the passion and enthusiasm the public has shown for the project,” said Warhurst. “Over the past decade, an incredible amount of hard graft has been invested in this project. It would be a tragedy to see it go to waste. It’s my ambition to let Bloodhound off the leash and see just how fast it can go.”

The former boss of Bloodhound SSC, Richard Noble, will not participate on Bloodhound’s engineering side but will continue to work on its educational aspects. He said: “It was a hard fight to create the Bloodhound car, the largest STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) programme in the UK, the public engagement programme and the 1000 man-year desert preparation. Our weakness was always finance but now, with Ian Warhurst, the team has the support it needs to drive forward.”

Q&A: Ian Warhurst

Why did you buy Bloodhound?

“I had to. They were on the point of cutting it up and sending it away for scrap. In fact, they put it off so I could come and see the car. I knew I couldn’t leave without doing some kind of deal.”

Did you know immediately that you’d go for the record?

“We had to decide whether to put it in a museum or run it as intended. It took about two months to decide it could be a commercial proposition.”

How’s sponsorship going? Wasn’t that the problem last time?

“So far, we’ve had some good indicators, calls from big corporates talking the right numbers, broadly speaking. The problem for projects like this is cash flow, which is what I’m providing. When you get close to running, you have something to sell to sponsors. We believe this can run on a proper commercial basis.”

Have you been to Hakskeen Pan yet?

“Yes, I was there earlier this month, doing 100mph on it in a Toyota Land Cruiser. If you want to see flat, boy, that’s it. I couldn’t believe we’d need to go eight times as fast to break the [current 763mph] record.”

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