Brakes put on Bloodhound SSC as it goes into administration

Bloodhound Programme Ltd, the company behind the project to smash the land speed record by racing a car at over 1000mph, has gone into administration after running into a financial roadblock. The Bloodhound supersonic vehicle is all but built but needs a £25m investment.

The administrators, FRP Advisory LLP, have already begun to talk to potential suitors and want to hear from others. But without the funds the project faces being wound up in the coming weeks.

Although all the R&D and low-speed trials are done, the project simply cannot move forward into its end phase unless the necessary funding is in place.

Andrew Sheridan, joint administrator, FRP Advisory LLP, said: “Entering into administration provides some breathing space to identify an investor who will bring the guaranteed funding, impetus and expertise required to drive the project forward.

“Whilst not an insignificant amount, the £25m Bloodhound requires to break the land speed record is a fraction of the cost of, for example, finishing last in a F1 season or running an Americas Cup team. This is an opportunity for the right investor to leave a lasting legacy.

“We are already in discussion with a number of potential investors and would encourage any other interested party to contact us without delay.”

Bloodhound is a private undertaking. It is funded through donation, sponsorship and partnership and has leveraged all three overt the last 10 years, but ultimately this funding model has not delivered sufficient cash to fully sustain such a complex venture.

The last two-to-three years have been an especially tough environment in which to raise financial support. The investment landscape is difficult, in part because of uncertainty around Brexit, but mainly because many large brands that might once have put their name on the side of a car to build awareness are now using other marketing tools, such as social media.

The track on which Bloodhound is intended to break the land speed record is also ready to host the car. The Northern Cape Government in South Africa has had an 18km-long, 1,500m-wide section of Hakskeen Pan cleared of stones.

And, significantly, the Nucleus rocket – three of which would be added to the Rolls-Royce EJ200 Eurojet engine – that would push Bloodhound through the sound barrier was successfully tested by Norwegian aerospace company, Nammo, in September.

Mark Chapman, chief engineer, Project Bloodhound, added: “As we now move out of the R&D phase and into the operational phase of the project, we recognise that we need a different approach to funding. This project is built around the most successful team in the history of Land Speed Racing, and with the right support we have no doubt that the project will achieve its aims and could be racing for the record in as little as ten months.”

If the £25m becomes available, Bloodhound could start running on Hakskeen Pan towards the end of 2019, when the lakebed has evaporated the seasonal rains and the ground has become bone dry.

The current plan is to run the car in the first instance in the region of 500-600mph, using just the Eurofighter jet, to get a better sense of how the car behaves as it approaches the speed of sound.

The team would then wait for another rain season to pass before returning to Hakskeen with the addition of a Nammo motor to raise the land speed record above 800mph, and then ultimately to over 1,000mph. So, that would probably mean running in 2020 and again in 2021.

Bloodhound was launched in 2008 as a ‘vehicle’ to get children excited about science and engineering, and to persuade them of the benefits of entering technical careers. This STEM campaign was one of the reasons big engineering firms got involved because they saw the project as a means to promote their apprenticeship schemes.

To date, this ‘education adventure’ has reached over two million children, including 120,000 schoolchildren in the UK each year.

The education side of things is unaffected by Monday's news because it is organised as a charity; it has separate sources of income.

Ironically, the current world land speed record was set on this day (15 October) in 1997 by Bloodhound’s predecessor, the Thrust Super Sonic Car, which was also driver by the same driver, Andy Green and led by Bloodhound’s project director, Richard Noble.