Andy Green - How to prepare yourself to drive at Mach 1.3

The world’s fastest man reveals how he mentally prepares to pilot a four-wheeled vehicle faster than a fighter jet

Andy Green interview cover MAIN
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ANDY Green is the only person to drive a vehicle faster than the speed of sound, earning himself the Land Speed Record behind the wheel of Thrust SSC in 1997

One of Green’s favourite quips is that he is the only person not to hear the jet-powered beast send a sonic-boom rattling across the Nevada desert, because he was busy white-knuckling the car with up to 90-degrees of steering lock while it barrelled towards the horizon faster than anyone else had gone before.

Now Green is preparing to do it all again, this time at the helm of Bloodhound SSC, the most complex and advanced land speed record car in history.


In his own words, this is how he is preparing for the day when he will blast across the earth at 1600km/h.

“I come to this venture with the context of having the world’s best job as a fighter jet pilot in the Royal Airforce,” he tells Wheels.

“So high-speed supersonic vehicles and all that, that’s my background. Getting into a high-powered supersonic jet and rocket propelled vehicle is just an extension of my day job, without any of the difficult bits like getting airborne, or flying in the rain, or flying at night.

“We will only operate in perfect weather conditions, on the perfect surface, it is all as predictable as we can make it. If something goes wrong in an aeroplane you can’t just switch it all off and park it – you have to now, in whatever poor state the aircraft is in, go and find a narrow strip of concrete probably with a crosswind at night, land it, and figure out what is wrong. With the car, I can just switch it off, because it is always in landing mode with the ground on the wheels. Going supersonic in a car is like aviation with all the difficult bits taken out. As long as we keep all our wheels on the ground at all times, we have solved our primary safety problem.


“My favourite quote which applies to the dangers of going 1600km/h comes from Captain A. G. Lamplugh in the 1930s, it says ‘aviation, like the sea, is not inherently dangerous. However, it is unforgiving of any error, omission, or inattention.’ If you cross out aviation and put land speed record it is spot on – going fast is not inherently dangerous.

“It is like crossing the road, if you are scared to look both ways, it is an incredibly dangerous occupation. But if you take your time and do it properly it becomes quite safe. That is the same approach we have with driving 1600km/h.

“There is never a day when we will go ‘Oh, we did some low-speed testing, let’s just floor it now and see what happens’. There will be a step-by-step test program, which will slowly build across a number of years up through 200km/h, to 500km/h and then progressively by 80km/h increments until around 1000km/h, then supersonic. If there is any point that we begin to see the steering is a bit loose, or aerodynamics aren’t working as intended, then the next 80km/h increment we might throttle that back so we have more time to watch and analyse.


“Once we have done that testing to supersonic and it can do 1200km/h no worries, only then will we say ‘Okay, let’s do two 1300km/h runs in opposite directions and set a new record’. From there we can increase to the car’s limits.”

For Green, going faster than anyone else has before in a vehicle is more maths problem than high-speed thrill seeking. Let’s just hope his numbers come up right, and the speedo sails past 1600km/h without any issues.

 

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Andy Green
Journalist
Deputy Editor, MOTOR

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