After months of speculation surrounding the Bloodhound world land speed record project, the team has announced that Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (ZGH) will be its prime sponsor and official automotive partner in a three-year agreement.
The Chinese automotive group, which also owns Volvo cars, will provide technical and financial support to the project and promote its Inspirational Programme throughout Asia.
The deal, signed in August, is the largest for the project and means plans for challenging the world land speed record in 2017 are now back on track, say the project organisers.
Project Bloodhound is an initiative with a truly global reach. Followed in more than 200 countries, its roadshows have toured Europe, Canada, SA, Brazil, India and China.
ZGH is the largest privately owned Chinese auto group and has grown rapidly over the past few decades. The parent company to Geely Auto, ZGH also owns Volvo Car Group and London Taxi Company. Geely Auto has four international research and design centres, employs close to 10,000 engineers worldwide and has also established universities, further education colleges and technology schools across China.
Geely joins a roster of international organisations supporting the project including Rolls-Royce aero, Castrol, Rolex, Parker Hannifin, Atlas Copco, STP, Lockheed Martin, Nammo, Thyssen Krupp and Otto Fuchs. Jaguar continues in its role as technical partner to the project and its V8 engine will remain the auxiliary power unit used to power the oxidiser pump for the Bloodhound’s rocket.
The partnership will see Geely Auto technology being used within the supersonic car. Geely Group vehicles will also be used in SA throughout the record campaigns while design and engineering support will be provided, where needed, to help the project achieve its goals.
“We could not have a better partner than Geely,” says Bloodhound project director Richard Noble. “Not only are they an international technology company with tremendous vision and capability, they share our passion for innovation and education. Their support, both technical and financial, means we can now plan next year’s record-breaking challenge with confidence. It also means we can take our inspirational message to a vast new audience, which is great for science and engineering.”
Li Shufu, chairman, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, says: “We are proud and excited to be part of this extraordinary team. Geely shares the same challenging spirit and passion for pushing technological barriers as the Bloodhound project.
“Since day one we have been committed to breaking technology barriers at Geely and working with Project Bloodhound will help further our mutual technology breakthrough to an international audience. It also means we can tell millions of young people, in China and around the world, about the opportunities presented by studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. That is what makes this ‘engineering adventure’ so special and why we wanted to be part of it.”
The announcement will give new impetus to the project, with the team set to be in SA next month to inspect the Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape, the site of the attempt.
Development of the Nammo rocket will also resume next month and will culminate in “tie-down tests” with the system installed in the car in the UK in July-August 2017.
With these tests completed, the team will then do a slow speed (354km/h) shakedown test on a runway in the UK. By that point, the team’s rapid response and turnaround crews will have completed extensive training ready to support high speed running in SA. This will include rehearsing “the pit stop from hell”: an intense 40-minute period between timed runs during which the car will be checked, refuelled and made ready for the return leg. This “race within a race” is crucial to setting a record: in 1997 a delay of just a few seconds cost the team the top prize.
With the shakedown test successfully completed, Bloodhound SSC will be loaded onto a Boeing 747 freighter to be airlifted to Upington from which the supersonic car will be transported by road to the team’s base at the Hakskeen Pan.