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Bloodhound: Andy Green
Belstaff talks to the world’s fastest man, Andy Green, about his work with Bloodhound to try and break the World Land Speed Record
You might be forgiven for thinking that taking a jet and a rocket-powered supersonic car (SSC) up to a thousand miles an hour, travelling 450 metres every second, unleashing power equivalent to more than 180 Formula 1 racers, could be described as thrilling. But Wing Commander Andy Green, the man charged with driving the Bloodhound SSC, insists that being at the wheel is much more than that. ‘The Land Speed Record is not about thrills. It is an academic and intellectual challenge, a step-by-by process of safely organising the record attempt in the most extraordinary car ever built. It's not about me but about team work and about solving problems that nobody ever solved before, and at the same time telling a story that the whole world can understand.’
Green’s own story is quite remarkable. A mathematics graduate, he became a front-line fighter pilot in the RAF – a role that gave him ‘tremendous job satisfaction’. No longer in a combat role, he now gets his hit of aerial adrenaline with aerobatic flying and skydiving; he has a perfect CV for an SSC driver. ‘Yes, I am a very lucky person. My mathematics background means I am fascinated by the technology that goes into a land speed record car, technology that's changing and improving all the time. As an RAF pilot, I am equally fascinated by the controls and the safety systems needed to mount a successful challenge.’
Talking to Green, you have to remind yourself that he is already the fastest man on four wheels. He broke the Land Speed Record (LSR) in 1997, in Richard Noble and his team’s jet-powered Thrust. He is not only the current holder of the LSR, but has held that distinction longer than anyone else in history.
So, why go and do it again? ‘Because having been trained in the RAF by the best in the world, I now have the opportunity to work with the very best scientists, engineers, designers and technicians, who make up the finest straight line racing team there is. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with such dedicated people. Plus it is a different car, with a different set of challenges and a different story to tell.’
‘Our mission is to create an engineering adventure. To use science and technology so exciting, it cannot be ignored. Bloodhound is designed to capture the imagination of the ten-year old boys and girls who will form the next generation of scientists and technologists who will help create the high-technology, low-carbon, energy-efficient world they will inhabit.’
Trying to break the LSR (even your own) is also a very British undertaking. ‘Well, Britain has certainly held the LSR longer than every other country combined. It uses the very best of Britain’s strengths, its engineering skills, problem-solving capabilities and its drive to go out there and try new things.’
And how important is it that many of the sponsors are iconic British names, such as Belstaff and Rolls-Royce? ‘One of the things that Bloodhound allows us to do is showcase the very best in British science, technology and innovation. We are very fortunate to have a group of sponsors who are the leaders in their respective fields. It means that we know whatever they give us, it is the best we could possibly get.’
In Belstaff’s case this means supplying the team with clothing – jackets and tops to cope with the dramatic diurnal swings in desert temperatures at the attempt site – in a unique ‘Bloodhound Blue’, as well as specially designed (and very cool) sunglasses. The latter will certainly come in handy in the unforgiving glare of the dry lake bed – the Hakskeen Pan – they are using in South Africa, up near the Namibian border.
How will he measure the success of Bloodhound? Will it be creating an LSR that can't be broken? ‘You can never say that. In 1935 Malcolm Campbell smashed the 300mph barrier in his Blue Bird. As he climbed out of his car he said: “I don’t believe anyone will ever drive faster than that.” So it’s impossible to predict the future. But we are at the forefront of a technology that is capable of creating a car that can do 1,000mph at ground level. That’s faster than the fastest jet you have ever seen at an air show, because they don’t fly at full speed at low altitudes. Inspiring the next generation to use innovative science and technology to make their world an even better place, that is Bloodhound’s core mission.’ And not just about the thrill. Although, should Thrust’s record of 763.065 mph be broken, I am sure Green won’t mind us being thrilled on his behalf.