Day 277 Mile 277: Not Quite 633.468 mph. On this day in 1983 Richard Noble set a new land speed record driving Thrust2 at the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. I was 3 at the time, and grew up with John Ackroyd’s car, which always looked something more like a spray can crossed with an aeroplane, rattling around in the background of my imagination. As a child in the mid-80s it felt like you couldn’t open a book about interesting facts without a photo or exploded diagram of this vehicle being evident, and looking back on it, this seems to be justified.
The car was designed by John Ackroyd and driven by Richard Noble. The project began with a budget of only £175, negotiating with sponsors and suppliers via a payphone on the Isle of Wight. The money came from the sale of the wreckage of his first jet-engined car, the crude, self-designed Thrust1, which Noble had crashed at RAF Fairford in 1977. He used the meagre funding to purchase a Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine, and launched his latest project – Thrust2 – at the 1977 Motorfair at London’s Earls Court. He had just that massive power unit to show startled visitors, and his dream to regale them with.
When Noble advertised for a designer capable of creating a 650 mph car, fate put him together with John Ackroyd. The latter went to work in a derelict cottage on the Isle of Wight commuting as and when required via his old Hercules pushbike.
In 1981 they finally got to the hallowed salt flats at Bonneville, in Utah, US. Noble encountered a series of frights running on metal wheels on the salt surface. Eventually he was able to make one 400 mph run using the afterburner, and discovered that Thrust2 became more stable the more power he used. The next day the rain came and shut down the project for the year.
In August 1982 Noble made an error of judgement during a test run in the UK and damaged the car; after a frantic rebuild the team got to Bonneville only to encounter more flooding. After a desperate search for an alternative venue, it relocated to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, and there, finally, Thrust2 approached speeds of 600 mph before the weather closed in once more.
On 4 October 1983 the car reached a top speed of 650.88 mph (1,047.49 km/h) and broke the record at 633.468 mph (1,019.468 km/h) (average speed of two runs within one hour).
It’s a wonderful story of engineering endeavor and following dreams on shoestring budgets in sheds! In order to honour this, today I am running along the salty sandflats of the beach and trying to avoid the rain, I may be a few orders of magnitude slower though!
I’m running a mile each day everyday for 2017. If you feel you can sponsor me please do, as all the money raised will go to the Cleft Lip & Palate Association (CLAPA) who provide services all across the UK to support people affected by it.
Distance: 1677.3 meters recorded
(1 mile = 1609.34 m.)
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Thanks as ever for all the support!