Thrust SSC

Chapter 4 - Initial Testing
The First Runs, England, Summer 1996

Testing would take place in a series of stages: initial installed engine tests, full reheat engine tests, low-speed runway tests, and full reheat runway tests. With all that complete, the car could depart for Jordan to begin serious speeds on the Al Jafr Desert. At the start of August the team's newly loaned Merlo telescopic-boom handler gently lowered the two Speys into position - taking the place of the now-condemned engine hoists. All the pipes and wiring looms were connected up, and the car was towed out onto the runway to begin the tests.

Over the weekend of 10th/11th August the team checked out first the left, then the right-hand engine. With the fuel and engine systems working, it was off to DTEO Boscombe Down to use the tie-down facilities there. A problem quickly surfaced - the engines ran fine to 95% of power, then surged. Various ideas were tried to resolve the surges - which were being caused by vortices in the intakes: in the end a bellmouth enabled the team to get the engines onto full reheat. The engines had been proven.

Preparations continued in Jordan - in England more sponsors came on board and runway tests began. The first tries were abortive, with last-minute problems with the car preventing progress - even stopping a run as ThrustSSC was ready at the end of the runway with the Speys running. Eventually everything came together for the 10-ton jet-car to move under its own power for the first time - and on the first brake test they proved much more powerful than expected, leaving both front tyres burst.

Royal visitors came and went - Prince Michael of Kent from the British Royal Family, and King Hussein of Jordan from the Hashemite Kingdom. Finally serious progress began to be made - with 5 runs being made in one day alone. Two days later came the culmination of the Farnborough tests - 200mph on full reheat!

Press Day was called, and the ThrustSSC team packed for Jordan as Craig Breedlove began his running on the famous Bonneville Salt Flats. The race to the Sound Barrier was under way.

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