Speed-team Britons bid to go supersonic

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Richard Noble (right) led the British team to America yesterday hoping to break the world land-speed record - but still pounds 200,000 short of the money needed for the bid, due to start on Saturday.

The twin jet-engined Thrust SSC car is going to the Nevada Black Rock desert, where the crew hope to break the existing record of 633 mph - set by Noble at the same venue in 1983 - and go beyond the sound barrier of 750mph.

But cash shortages have bedevilled the attempts, and it was only a last- minute infusion of thousands of pounds which made it possible for the team to head off yesterday from Stansted airport in a giant Russian Antonov transport plane, which carried the 16-metre long, 10-tonne needle-shaped car and the 30 support crew.

Thrust SSC's driver, Squadron Leader Andy Green, has recovered from a broken ankle - suffered at a swimming pool - and will be up against another potentially supersonic vehicle, Spirit of America II, driven by the veteran US racer and former world land-speed record holder Craig Breedlove.

"The two cars will probably start off at about 500mph and try to get 50mph faster with each run," said a Thrust spokesman.

"Richard's team has got enough money to fly out but need more if they are to stay in Nevada."