I remember this feeling. The first time was just before Jordan in 1996: after months of unrelenting hard work the car is ready to be put through its paces on the desert; the equipment is ready and gathered for transport to Stansted; and the team are exhausted…
The working day starts before 0600hrs this morning for some - and very few have the luxury of leaving it until after 0700. It's Press Day again - just like last time we have huge numbers of the media coming to hear about the plans for the future, and once again we have the Mach 1 Club Gold Members joining us to see the car charge down Farnborough's runway Two-Five. Ninetta, Dee, Lynne, Suzy and Heidi are hard at work in the kitchen preparing the food for the day. The engineering team are preparing the car - after a late night preparing the support equipment - and the incredible Mach 1 Club Team are doing anything and everything else.
The latter Team deserves a very special mention. Without them this project could never succeed, such is their ability to take on jobs and see them through. On occasions like today they really come into their own - arranging the barriers and Public Address system at the 'York Road' viewing point, registering all the media and Gold Members at South gate and escorting them to P8R Shed, setting out the Internet display, the shop, the platform, the stands... I don't know where they get the energy from - a heartfelt thank-you goes to all of them for their hard work!
The schedule for Press Day is simple. After starting with presentations on the project to date, the team will then outline the plans for the future. Photo calls around the car and team interviews with Raymond Baxter (of Tomorrow's World fame) over lunch. Finally everyone will be taken to York Road, ThrustSSC will do her stuff, and the visitors depart.
The displays today are fantastic - inside the sponsors have their stands set up to show their capabilities, while outside are ThrustSSC and the team vehicles. The SSC stands outside the enormous, brand-new Aireshelta that will house her in the desert - just as wide as the one used in Jordan in 1996, but half as long again. The Supacats, Jaguar and Merlo are in position too. By 0730 the team are outside with the equipment to appear live on television - Channel 4's Big Breakfast are covering Thrust with short slots in their broadcast. One can't help but wonder if Richard Noble has ever had an interview like it?
By 1000 people are arriving. Presentations begin, interviews are conducted, photographs taken, problems, successes and challenges are explained. All the time there is work to be done - and all the time the Mach 1 Club is taking care of it. Channel 2 on the radios never stops: Escort 1 and Escort 2 have everything in hand. I take Club founder Robin Richardson aside and ask him:
"Do you ever stop to look at the work the Club is now doing, and wonder at what you started?"
"It's just incredible, isn't it?" he grins. "Where would the project be without them?"
Lunchtime comes - throughout it Raymond Baxter interviews team members on the platform. Only when you join him up there for your turn does it strike you what a consummate professional he is. You get a glimpse at his notes - and realise he's found out more about you than you knew yourself! It's gratifying to note that much of his information has come from the Team pages on this Web Site. You explain how data from the car is put onto the Internet, how the Web Site is used around the world - and how the level of use of the Site has reached some 300,000 accesses in 24 hours, from over 70 countries. Raymond is astounded - even more so when you point out that your target is to break 1 million accesses a day.
Time to get ready for ThrustSSC's demonstration run. The Pit Station Trailer goes to York Road - one of its two massive Honda generator sets will be used to power the PA system. Robert Atkinson raises the telemetry aerial - while the trailer is at a good distance from the car he is taking advantage of the opportunity to conduct some tests. The media and Gold members arrive and jockey for the best viewing positions.
The white Palouste is started, then ThrustSSC's engines fire up at point 'Alpha'. The Recovery Team at 'Golf' report a problem with the green Palouste - can they have the white one sent to them once the SSC is started? You advise Raymond Baxter who quickly adds the new information to his commentary. As a helicopter is cleared for landing, a Supacat prepares to take the Palouste down the runway, but then Recovery advise that the recalcitrant unit is working. With the runway clear for a run, ThrustSSC taxis forward to the start point.
"SSC ready to roll."
Adam Northcote-Wright's calm voice from the tower gives the required permission: "SSC clear roll."
The engines spool up loudly as the brakes are released: "SSC rolling."
Within seconds the twin Speys reach 'Max Mil' - full dry power. In the stiff good headwind the engines have more air through them than normal and the afterburners light a little quicker. With a deafening roar the car accelerates to 160mph before Andy Green selects idle. Barely moments later he releases his parachute and applies the brakes simultaneously as the SSC storms past the watching media.
You look at your camera - you've used 20 shots of the fresh roll put in at the start of the run. A mental note not to use the motordrive on 'fast' next time...
The media now want to go - they have their story and their pictures. Deadlines have to be met, copy to be sent in, films to be processed. John Lovatt arranges the first coaches and the first batch is taken to South Gate. Meanwhile Andy arrives in Firechase to be debriefed by those remaining. He describes a near-perfect run to Raymond. Richard Noble adds his thoughts before the coaches return to escort the visitors away.
Finally peace has settled - but now all the equipment must be packed, dismantled, collected, or deflated. Everyone is exhausted, but it must be done, and everyone sets to. No prizes for guessing who are standing by just looking for work…
God bless the Mach 1 Club!
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