Thrust SSC - Supersonic Race Update

Issue 104 Lead Article - 6th April 1997

Easter In Jordan

by Andy Green, ThrustSSC's Driver

The SSC is just about complete after a busy winter of modifications and improvements based on our experience in Jordan last year. So what about the desert? The only way to find out was to go there so Jayne (last year's SSC run controller) and I went to Jordan over Easter to find out.

ThrustSSC tracks are still visible on the Jafr Desert
(ThrustSSC tracks are still visible on the Jafr Desert. Photo: Jayne Millington)

We were extremely well received by everyone we met, which included General Ababneh, who runs the Royal Jordanian Air Force and Prince Feisal, who did so much to help us with our runs last year. They are very keen to see us again and to help us get the Car up to well over 600 mph on the Al Jafr desert in Southern Jordan.

The polygons are a well formed again
(The polygons are a well formed again. Photo: Jayne Millington)

The desert is in excellent condition, very smooth and dry - generally better than it was last year. There are a few patches that require a bit of smoothing off or filling, but with the practice of last year to rely on, we know that the Air Force team at Al Jafr will produce a perfect surface for the SSC. All of the white track lines will need to be re-marked, although amazingly enough some traces of them can still be seen from last year! The other difference which we hadn't expected was greenery - after the flooding, there are tiny patches of grass and even the occasional flower out in the middle of the desert... but I don't think they're going to last long. In the meantime the camels are making the most of it, grazing out in the middle of the desert, miles from anywhere. Now if only they would pick up all the stones while they are there...

Checking hardness with the Desert Penetrometer
(Checking hardness with the Desert Penetrometer. Photo: Jayne Millington)

While we were out in the desert we went to visit the Desert Police, who gave us so much help last year with securing the desert for running the Car. They were delighted to learn that the 'Extreme Machines' documentary on the land speed record, which was shown on the Discovery Channel last month, had featured them roaring around in their machine gun-equipped Landrovers - now they were famous around the world! We also visited the Air Base at Al Jafr, which is about 8 miles from the desert, where we will be living next month. We were welcomed by the Base Commander who has promised us all the help which his base can offer - hooray for the Royal Jordanian Air Force!

The winter in Jordan has been one of their wettest ever, which has delighted the Jordanians (although we weren't best pleased when it started last year!). The weather is now dry and getting warmer each day - so we're going to need plenty of sun cream in a few weeks time. The worst we should have to worry about is the occasional dust storm when the wind gets up... which also means we'll be getting up very early in the morning to get the best and coolest of the weather.

Andy Green marking out points on the track
(Andy Green marking out points on the track. Photo: Jayne Millington)

We also managed a quick visit to Petra for a night's sleep and a chat to the Amra Palace hotel, where most of the Mach One Club members who joined us last year were staying. The staff at the Amra Palace were delighted to here that we were coming back, and soon - they said they were very full, but would always find room for the Thrust team and its supporters... and did we want cars when we came out next month? 'My uncle has a hire-car business, we'll get you a very special price'... yes, please!

There's still a lot of work to do in Jordan - lines to paint, stones to clear, ripples to smooth out, and of course 75 tonnes of Car and equipment to move from Farnborough to Al Jafr... but we're on our way, thanks to all the help we are getting from the Jordanians. Next stop, 600 mph+.


The author of this article, Andy_Green, is ThrustSSC's driver and a pilot in the Royal Air Force.

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