World Land Speed Record – Thrust 2’s 30-Year Anniversary Recognition

By in , ,
No comments
Thrust 2
Credit: Thrust Programme Ltd

4 October 2013 will mark the 30th anniversary of Richard Noble driving Thrust 2 to a then world record speed of 633.468 mph. When asked why he had done it, Noble replied: “For Britain and for the hell of it.”

It was the realisation of a childhood ambition sparked when six-year old Noble saw ‘Crusader’, the boat built for land speed legend John Cobb, moored on a Loch Ness quayside.

His journey from backseat day-dreamer to World Record breaker would be characterized by boundless energy, unswerving enthusiasm and the unshakeable belief that any obstacle could be ground down to become an opportunity.

This faith was tested many times during the six years of the Thrust Project as Richard and a small team of engineers and volunteers overcome technical and financial challenges, freak floods, failures and a very public 180 mph crash, to ultimately set a record that would remain unbeaten for fourteen years.

Since Donald Campbell reached 403.10 mph with his iconic Bluebird CN7 in 1964, the Land Speed record had become the preserve of younger American racers, who challenged the existing rules and harnessed the might of surplus military jet engines to rapidly push the limit far beyond the 500 mph mark.

In 1970 Gary Gabelich achieved a two-way average speed through the Measured Mile of 622.407 mph, in the spare and elegant ‘Blue Flame’ – to this day the only successful rocket-powered Land Speed Record car. There the record stood, seemingly out of reach, until a Twickenham-based enthusiast returned to the dusty Nevada hamlet of Gerlach, on the edge of the Black Rock Desert, with an exhausted crew and money for just one last week of high speed runs.

Richard Noble and Thrust 2
Richard Noble and Thrust 2: Copyright Thrust Programme Ltd


Richard could not know then that his achievement would set in motion a series of events that would ultimately lead to the UK Government using Land Speed Record breaking as a means to inspire children about science and engineering.

He went on to direct the Thrust SSC campaign which, in 1997, culminated in RAF fighter pilot Andy Green becoming the first person to break the sound barrier on land. Their record of 763.035 mph still stands.

Having brought new management rigour to the hazardous but essentially amateur world of high speed racing and promoted the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics in aerodynamic design, Richard was invited to project manage JCB’s ‘Dieselmax’ programme. With Andy Green once again at the wheel, the low-riding streamliner smashed existing records for its class, achieving a speed of 350.092 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats on 23rd August 2006.

Today Richard is leading The BLOODHOUND Project, a global education initiative focused on a 1,000 mph land speed record attempt. The new car builds on the legacy of Thrusts 2 and SSC, combining space, aeronautic and Formula 1 technologies to cross the Measured Mile in just 3.6 seconds.

For the first time in Land Speed Record history, going fast is not the team’s main objective. Instead it is to use BLOODHOUND to showcase science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the most exciting way possible, and inspire a future generation of engineers and technologists.

Richard’s childhood dream has now evolved into a multi-faceted, worldwide movement, with followers in over 220 countries, 5,500 UK schools using BLOODHOUND in the classroom and a small army of ambassadors sharing the excitement with audiences on five continents.