Meet Thrust SSC, the one and only car to hold the record of being the fastest ever in nearly 20 years. Travelling at over 1,200 km/h, this sweet ride set the world record of being the fastest car on 15 October 1997 in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA.
Its creator, Andy Green from the UK also claims that the car was the first ever to break the sound barrier, although according to the Guinness World Records,
“The published speed of Mach 1.0106 was not officially sanctioned by the USAF, as the Digital Instrument Radar was not calibrated or certified.”
So the claims of travelling at supersonic speeds are a bit dodgy, also because the speed was measured using a radar pointed at a television rather than the real live car.
Nevertheless, this engineering masterclass remains a dream for every petrol head out there. Breaking the Mach 1 barrier was both difficult as well as risky as before this, no information on the ground effects of this practice was available. The ground effect includes the risk of things going terribly wrong at the slightest of anomalies or errors. And at its designed top speed of 1400 km/h, the dynamic pressure exceeds ¾ tonnes per square foot makes it a very scary ride.
Two 100,000 hp Rolls-Royce Spey 205 turbojet engines were used to boost this supersonic piece of wonder. This is the same output as three naval frigates, and at full throttle, the temperatures at the rear of the craft exceed 300 degrees Celsius while the booming sound levels reach 175 dB.
At its top speed, the wheels, which are the only thing keeping the driver away from a total disaster, rotate at a whopping 8,500rpm. This rpm and the radial acceleration at the rim of 35,000G is far greater than any traditional tire can withstand. Thus, L27 aluminium wheels were specially cast for the car, with each one weighing an amazing 160kg.
So the weight of the tyres along with the massive engine helps in keeping traction and gives the pilot some degree of navigation. But this also means that a mass travelling at such incredible speeds could put the driver in grave danger.
Techniques like fuel dumping and ejection were considered at first to try and save the pilot, but at a speed of 3 KM/s, dumping and ejection both become redundant. This means that every time a pilot tries to cage in this beast, he is putting his own life in danger despites hundreds of sensors monitoring and trying to control variables such as thrust, speed, and direction to minimise any accident.
Measures such as sensors in the suspension system to measure downforce 500 times per second and detection of engine failure within milliseconds sound comforting, but the fact remains that a mass hurling at such incredible speeds is too hard to control and keep safe.
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