Thrust breaks the sound barrier twice but is a minute late for the record

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The RAF fighter pilot Andy Green, driving the jet-engined British Thrust SuperSonic Car, broke the sound barrier twice last night but failed to make it into the record books by just one minute.

Under international rules the car had to repeat its supersonic run within one hour to set the record, but it took 61 minutes for engineers to prepare it for its second run. But he became the first person to take a car through the speed of sound when he roared across Black Rock desert, Nevada, in the huge black jet car at 764.168 mph (1,222 kph) - or 1.007 percent above the speed of sound on his first run. The second time he reached 760.153 (1,216kph).

The team were last night undaunted and said they hoped to try again today - the 50th anniversary of the American test pilot Chuck Yeager's first supersonic flight on 14 October 1947.

Earlier in the day, they missed breaking sound barrier by about 5mph but after making adjustments to the car, which is powered by two Rolls- Royce jet engines, they were able to try again - this time with success. Mach 1, the speed of sound, is more than 750mph but varies according to altitude and temperature. It is at present 755mph on the Black Rock desert but Richard Noble, Thrust project manager, wants to exceed the speed of sound by 10 per cent before heading back to England. However the team have been dogged by technical problems and bad weather which have delayed them and Mr Noble said last night that there was only enough money for another two days unless they could find more sponsorship.

Despite that, he said last night: "We have actually achieved the first ever timed supersonic run in history. It is a great moment."

Two weeks ago Thrust SSC, which uses 18 litres of fuel a second, set a new land speed record of 714mph. Tony Blair praised the team's "sensational achievements" and William Hague said it was "fantastic".