Richard Hammond’s quest for speed has kicked up a few notches this week after The Grand Tour star signed on as the pilot of a 1,000mph Jet Car.
The 49-year old has joined the Bloodhound LSR project some 11 years after it began, and his eyes are now squarely on breaking the current 763mph (1,227km/h) land speed record for jet-powered vehicles.
The top speed run will take place on an 11-mile stretch of open land already prepared in South Africa – and could happen as early as October this year.
Getting behind the wheel for the first stage of high-speed testing, Hammond will take the car up to in excess of 400mph (643km/h) – more than twice as fast as it has ever gone before – allowing the team’s engineers to gather a whole range of key data about the car, plus other information needed to plan everything related to the record-breaking runs.
Given his high-speed driving history, Hammond is understandably nervous about the prospect of driving another jet-powered vehicle. After all, the speeds Bloodhound should achieve will greatly exceed those of Vampire, a jet-powered dragster which nearly claimed Hammond’s life back in 2006, after a tyre blowout caused him to veer off the runway at RAF Elvington at over 280mph.
This time, however, Hammond believes that he has not only luck on his side, but technology too.
“They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, well it really can’t,” Hammond says. “For starters, Bloodhound uses purpose-built solid aluminium alloy wheels, so there’s absolutely no risk of a tyre blowing out and ruining the party like it did on Vampire some 13 years ago.”
“We’re also going to ramp things up relatively gently,” Hammond added. “To begin with, the car will be fitted with a Eurojet EJ200 jet engine, which is good for around 400mph. Once we’re all happy with how the car is performing, the guys will swap it out for a Nammo hybrid rocket engine. And then I’ll really be able to give it the beans.”
Once Hammond breaks the current 763mph (1,227km/h) land speed record, the team plans to make a range of assessments before deciding whether to pursue the 1,000mph (1,609km/h) speed that Bloodhound was ultimately designed for. Key among these factors are whether the technical requirements are considered feasible, whether sponsors will want to be involved, whether it’s considered safe, and of course, whether Hammond is still willing to get behind the wheel.
Despite their lofty ambitions, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the team. Late last year the project entered into administration when it ran out of funding, before receiving a last-minute reprieve when Ian Warhurst stepped in with money to keep it going.
Hammond’s high-speed runs will all be filmed by The Grand Tour team, so expect to see a tie-in with Series 5 sometime in 2021.
April fools! Just like when James May launched a new floral shirt range, or that time The Grand Tour was cancelled after Clarkson punched Jeff Bezos, when Clarkson scored a role on ‘Better Call Saul’, or when Top Gear UK was cancelled.