Blink and you’ll miss these speed machines, but what high-octane engineering is under the hood?
In 1906, on the packed sands of Ormond Beach in Florida, USA, mankind’s obsession with speed shifted into an entirely new gear. Powered by kerosene-burning steam engines, the world’s first racecars broke the 160-kilometre (100 -mile)-per-hour mark, igniting a race for the record books – one that roars on today. In 2014, the Bloodhound SSC hopes to speed past the 1,600-kilometre (1,000 -mile)-per-hour barrier, smashing the current land-speed record by nearly 400 kilometres (250 miles) per hour and reaching a velocity that could outrun a Magnum .357 bullet. The quest to build the world’s fastest vehicles on land, a ir and sea is equal parts physics, robust materials and, to a certain extent, abject lunacy. Hundreds have lost their lives piloting home -made rocket boats and blast ing experimental aircraft to the edge of space. But as long as there’s a new milestone to reach – speed of sound, Mach 20, perhaps even the speed of light – our brightest scientifi c minds and wildest daredevils will be willing to take on the challenge
A sonic boom echoed off the stone cliffs of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA, as the Britishmade Thrust SSC became the first land vehicle to break the sound barrier back in 1997. To qualify for a land-speed record of 1,149 kilometres (763 miles) per hour, the c a r needed to have four wheels and be under complete control of the driver. It also needed to w ithstand air pressu re upwa rds of ten tons per square metre. To improve stability, the rocket-shaped car was equipped with twin Rolls-Royce Spey jet engines, one on each side. Each engi ne produced 89 kilonewtons (20,000 pounds-force) of thrust, roughly equal to 1 45 Formula One cars. The next-generation Bloodhound SSC – pictured here – aims to exceed 1,600 kilometres per hour (1,000 miles per hour) in 2014 with a Eurofi ghter Ty phoon jet engine and a hybrid rocket strapped to its sleek carbon-fi bre and titanium cage frame. The Bloodhound w ill rocket from zero to 1,690 kilometres (1,050 miles) per hour in just 40 seconds on 900-millimetre (2.9-foot) aluminium alloy wheels.