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Meet the man who saved the 1,000mph Bloodhound LSR car
"It’s the most expensive car I’ve bought by a long way..." TG chats to Ian Warhurst
“I want to see how fast this car can go.”
You’d like Ian Warhurst. In fact you might well have him to thank for the continuing operation of your car. His company, Melett, made spare parts for turbos, and as the demand for turbos boomed over the last 15 years, so too did his company. He sold it 18 months ago, “and I thought I’d be retiring, tinkering in my garage [he has a couple of pre-war Rolls-Royces], walking the dogs. I knew I’d get involved in something else, just didn’t think it would be this soon”.
TG: So why did you get involved?
IW: Cut me in half, and it says engineer in the middle. When Thrust SSC was running I was one of those people who got up at six in the morning to download the latest video on my 6k modem to see how they had got on the day before. So I’ve been following Bloodhound for years. I think I was one of the original members of the 1K club – my brother got me the membership certificate for my 40th birthday.
When I found out the car was in administration I thought, ‘that’s a shame but maybe it’s just a way of trying to regroup and keep the creditors at bay while they get more funding in’. And then I got a text from my son Charlie saying, ‘Hey Dad, have you seen the car’s for sale, why don’t you go buy it? Hahaha’, kind of thing.
So I had a look into it, and thought that’s a shame because if it goes to auction it will just get broken up and sold all over the place. So I got online, found an email for Richard Noble and dropped him a line saying ‘you don’t know me, I’m an engineer, just sold my business, got a few quid, can I help?’ And I got this email straight back, saying ‘absolutely, I’ll talk to you now because the administrators are literally about to break the car up‘.
TG: How fast did things progress from there?
IW: That was the Monday. On Tuesday I went down to Bristol and met the administrators. And I realised that if I left that building and didn’t do a deal, they were waiting outside and that was it. So I called my solicitors on the way home, and by the Friday lunchtime I’d signed the deal. And then I was like, ‘right, I have effectively bought the thing out of the skip, what next?’.
TG: Are you planning on sponsoring the whole project yourself?
IW: Well, we want to run the car as quick as we can, we don’t want it to drag on, but the plan is to use sponsorship. So we’ve gone back to the original sponsors and given them first refusal, and some of them have got on board and others have said they want to put their investment elsewhere.
TG: And if the sponsorship all falls through, will you support it?
IW: The answer is I could afford to get this to the desert and down the desert and do a land speed record, but it wants to be sponsored. I’ve got the cash to put into it to keep funding it, and my cash will be replaced by sponsorship when it comes in. As far as I’m concerned I’d like to think I’ll break-even.
TG: Do you have a timescale?
IW: I haven’t got a date yet. I’m not saying a date to anybody because the one thing I’m definitely not going to do on this project is say, ‘we’re going to do it then’, and then not make it. Because that would just be a disaster.
It’s the most expensive car I’ve bought by a long way!
TG: How involved have you been so far?
IW: I was out there [Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape of South Africa] two weeks ago. I met the Premier, and I’ve driven down the pan at a hundred miles an hour in a Land Cruiser and that was quite scary! I’ve been to Norway to visit the Nammo rocket factory. How cool is that? We are planning on doing the testing for that down in Newquay. It’s been a bloody busy few months. And the first thing we had to do was get a building. Luckily we found this place pretty quickly. And it’s perfect – attached to SGS [a new university technical college], I want to put something back, because I’ve had a good career in engineering, so if we can inspire students that’s great.
But really, I’m excited about running the car. The objective of the project is to get a land speed record. And I know in the past the objective was all about inspiration for kids and education, but my view is that’s the natural spin-off of what we are going to do.
TG: Are most of the original suppliers supporting you?
IW: One of the problems the administrators had, was that they were trying to clear the old building and there was a lot of gear in there, all loaned or lent, most of it on a handshake. But because it wasn’t Bloodhound’s, they [the administrators] couldn’t sell it. So they were getting in touch with these companies and asking them to take their stuff away, and the suppliers were saying ‘no, we don’t want to, we want the project to carry on’. The administrators had never seen anything like it. So yes, all the suppliers have been brilliant. The goodwill behind this thing is just phenomenal.
TG: How much have you budgeted?
IW: We’re in the middle of costing right now, the detail of how we get the car out there, how much does it cost to get a 747 to take it and so on. And we haven’t got all those quotes and stuff back yet. So I haven’t got a total number. I’ve got an idea. And as far as I’m concerned, everything’s looking in the right area. So that’s why we said it’s commercially viable, let’s go for it. And I know I can afford to fund that, so let’s crack on.
It’s the most expensive car I’ve bought by a long way! But compare to what they spent doing it in the first place, I know it was a really good deal. But very quickly what I paid doubled to just cover the first few months of rent and the like.
TG: And the objective is a new Land Speed Record?
IW: That’s the objective. Let’s get that goal and then we’ll look at the next phase – seeing if we can get to 1,000mph. But if Andy Green steps out of it at 850mph and says, ‘that’s it, that’s mad’, then that’s all we’ll do.
TG: How big is the crew you’ve got working on Bloodhound full time?
IW: There’s about 15 at the moment, which is the core team, plus we’ve got some of the engineers and mechanics and technicians helping us out because we had to empty the old building.
So we’ve been filling up skips of stuff that we don’t need any more. In fact I’ve got my X5 with me today with the towbar on it, and this afternoon I’ll be in my overalls, bringing the trailer back up here with the last few bits in it.