British team to build first 1,000mph car

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The Independent Online

Eat your heart out, Jeremy Clarkson. A team of British engineers will announce a plan today to build a car that can reach 1,000mph.

The ambitious engineering project comes from the team that holds the world's land speed record and has the full backing of the Science minister, Lord Drayson, who believes it will be an inspiration to young people looking for a career in science or engineering.

By next year the engineers, led by the project director, Richard Noble, hope to have built a supercar that will take the world land speed record from the current 763mph to 1,000mph – nearly 15 times the motorway speed limit.

It will exceed the current speed record of 994mph for low-altitude flight, only this vehicle will be designed – hopefully – to stay firmly on the ground during the 85 seconds it will take for the car to cover the 10 or so miles needed to go from zero to 1,000mph and back to zero again. The 42ft-long vehicle will be designed to travel faster than a handgun bullet and its bodywork will have to withstand air pressures exceeding 12 tons per square metre as it covers a distance equivalent to four football pitches in a second.

Mr Noble said yesterday that he expected many difficult challenges ahead, not least how to raise the £10m that it will take to develop, build, test and deploy the fastest land vehicle. "I expect an awful lot of problems, to be honest. There's no template for this because no one's ever done it before. We've done 18 months of research, and it's good research, but there are all sorts of unknowns out there," he said.

Bloodhound SSC (supersonic car) will be driven by Wing Commander Andy Green, a former RAF pilot, who was also behind the wheel – or rather a modified aircraft yoke – of Thrust SSC, the car that broke the previous land speed record on 15 October 1997.

"The critical thing for a car going that fast is to keep it on the ground and to keep it going in the right direction. Because of the speed you are going at, there is not much time to think of anything else," Wing Cdr Green said.

"It's not a case of saying 'blimey, this is fast' – if anything it's another sensation. It's like the slow-speed feeling you get just before a car crash – only it lasts for about two minutes."

Lord Drayson will announce government sponsorship for the education element of the project soon.