Five years ago, I stood on one of the most barren stretches of land in the north-eastern corner of South Africa waiting for a small turbo-prop passenger aircraft to land.
For almost two years (and allowing for a number of weather breaks due to flooding), hundreds of the local inhabitants had been clearing the runway by hand… picking up stone by stone in the searing heat.
For the vast majority of these hardy Northern Cape folks, it was their very first job in life. There is not much in the way of commercial development surrounding the flat and seemingly endless stretch of baked mud and salt called Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari desert.
But if all goes according to plan – or pan as it happens – a massive dust storm across those golden-brown sands will suddenly become the focus of the world’s media.
The satellite images will show a yellow column moving at more than a thousand miles per hour and at the center of it what looks like a very low-flying aircraft catapulted by rocket and jet engines.
This 7.5-ton supersonic Tessie will skim across the pan at such a speed that tyres would be shredded by the G-forces. So each wheel will be engineered from 100 kilograms of aerospace aluminium.
You’re right… the fastest wheels ever created!
Around midday there was the sound of whining engines and the incongruous sight of a Beechcraft King Air touching down with a veil of billowing dust.
The Bloodhound Project team, headed by former land-speed record holder Richard Noble, climbed down the folding stairs to explain why they had selected this remote location for one of the most ambitious endeavours of our time.
To annihilate the world land speed record with the Bloodhound SSC (supersonic car), driven by current holder Wing Commander Andy Green, reaching 1,000 miles-per-hour on that scorched earth. Think about that for a second… 1,600 kilometers-per-hour, Mach 1.4, faster than the low-altitude record for aircraft.
It is 20 years since the 55-year-old British Royal Air Force pilot set the mark of 1,228 km/h at the controls of Thrust SSC in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. If successful, it will be the biggest leap in land speed history.
According to the Bloodhound research team, if you fired what used to be the most powerful handgun in the world, Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum, at the tail of the pencil-shaped car as it passed and Green toggled the hybrid rocket as the revolver went off, the bullet would never hit the car.
They originally looked at Verneukpan to the south which has lured speedsters for many decades. The most famous was Sir Malcolm Campbell who set out to break the record of 350km/h way back in 1929 in his Bluebird.
The track that he compacted on the pan is still visible today. But it was not a glorious escapade for Campbell. He lost his briefcase with vital performance data, his aircraft crashed into a tree near Calvinia, dust devils were a major hazard and the 26-kilometer track looked directly into the rising sun. But it was the sharp stones and thorny brush that were his final downfall and tyre damage forced him to abandon the attempt.
Recent inspections revealed that the shale bed of Verneukpan was breaking up. So Hakskeen Pan it is and we wait for Bloodhound SSC (which had its first outing at Cornwall Airport recently) to set the world alight with this “engineering adventure”.
On the sidelines will be the people so removed from the fast lane of modern motoring technology who played that vital role of clearing the undefined ‘track’ so Bloodhound does not end up in the same dire situation as Bluebird.
Building a car quicker than a fighter jet is not, however, the main aim of the project. It is rather to inspire future generations to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Unlike all other forms of motorsport – especially Formula One (F1) – there are virtually no restrictions on the design of a land speed challenger with all developments and research being shared on a public platform.
Many manufacturers claim to feed off F1 technology but few have embraced and refined it to the extent of Mercedes-AMG Project ONE.
Construction of the first all-wheel drive Project ONE hypercar is still almost two years away and much is being kept under tightly bound wraps, despite the international launch at the Frankfurt motor show.
But it is projected that one of these magnificent machines will set you back around $2.8 million and less than 300 of them will be produced.
In line with the engine downsizing of the decade, the powerplant is a 1.6-liter V6 hybrid which incorporates the best of AMG plus the finely tuned hi-tech of F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton’s racecar. Sounds like a difficult act to follow – quite literally!
And that muscular mill works in tandem with four electric motors, two to drive the front wheels when you are cruising.
This mid-engined Merc monster is being designed to rocket to 200km/h in under six seconds. And quite easily breeze past the 350km/h that Malcolm Campbell was chasing on Verneukpan.
Overall design elements are also being influenced by the racetrack. Aerodynamics are a given but it also needs a plethora of air intakes for cooling and generating downforce along with a massive wing which arises above the squat and threatening rear end.
The similarities with Hamilton’s F1 don’t end there. The Project One steed will have to go in for a “mechanical revision” at 50,000 kilometers. At least it’s a longer cycle than the Petronas racecar’s 20,000 kilometer upgrade.
“Motorsport is not an end in itself for us. Faced with intense competition, we develop technologies from which our production vehicles also subsequently benefit. We are drawing on our experiences and successes from three constructors’ and drivers’ world championships to bring Formula One technology to the road for the first time,” says Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
One of the biggest challenges for the Project ONE team is decibels. The scream of the high-revving engine may be a welcome feature around Spa-Francorchamps but maybe not so popular around the suburban shopping center.
It’s envisaged that the idling speed will be around a quarter of F1’s 4,000 revolutions per minute!
The timing is synchronized with AMG’s 50th birthday – definitely an occasion to make some noise about.
Bloodhound and Project ONE – two brave ventures to steepen the parabolic curve of technological advancement even further.
According to that famous quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, “Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.” – Written by Derek Watts
HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E
Brought to you by Hugo Boss
HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.
Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.
HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.
In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.
Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.
“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.
The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.
The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.
Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.
Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.
Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.
“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.
Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.
“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”
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