Richard Noble's Bloodhound Project diary

My apologies- this is late again! Nick Chapman asked for this update in July, but the pace and demands of the project are so great that I have to give precedence to activities that make money, structure the programme and help the rest of the team achieve their objectives. The project is moving very very fast now on a very wide front and it's doing really well.

I always used to dread August – it used to be a terrible dead month. People don't make decisions – you can't even get hold of key people. That's how it used to be, but thank God times have changed. The senior executives are beginning to realise that August is key month. It's quiet and this is the time to get the thinking and planning done. It's also very important for Bloodhound.

Our main problem is the interface with the outside world – we make decisions quickly but without the car build in process, the project has limited credibility and third party decisions take for ever. Fortunately the design team, who are of course right on the critical path, have been having serious complications with the back end of the car and this has given us time to get some of the crucial partnerships in place. Once these partnerships are in place, then we have the whole project machinery together and we can all go forward to the huge fund raise necessary to build Bloodhound. It is important to get this sequence right – time spent on research now is invaluable: cut the research programme back and you are taking a massive gamble with everybody's time and resources – and as we have seen before you can end up with a car which just won't perform … or even worse.

But it's all about change – we are asking an awful lot of our partners - we are asking them to change and do things they haven't done before – no wonder that decisions take so long.

The key partnerships are the media partner, the build location partner, the IT partner and the composites partner. It looks as though we are very close now to the media partner deal – we have been working for some 8 months on this one and finally the process has resulted in what I believe to be a brilliant relationship which we are due to sign later this month. In the build programme, the team were very keen to build in Bristol – but it became impossible to get the necessary support and interest. The Bristol authorities just didn't seem to understand! Along came Coventry (where ThrustSSC and Thrust2 are in the Museum) and then Farnborough and Northern Ireland. We asked them all to submit bids and as I write this the team are voting on the bids – a simple one week process which makes sure that everyone understands the complexities. Sadly, Coventry were unable to finance their bid and had to drop out. The quality of the bids is exceptional – a huge amount of time and effort has gone into all this. By Friday August 14th, the votes will have been counted by Simpsons our auditors and we'll know where we are going. Then we have to go like Hell to get the workshop up and Bloodhound into build. Of course, the build is complicated by the need to build the car in public so that the schools can visit and see Bloodhound coming together. But our No1 objective is to create a new generation of engineers and scientists and so that part of the build is non negotiable.

The next partners are the composite partners. 30% of the car build cost is in composites and we are in the process of assembling an aerospace composites consortium. These companies usually compete against each other for aerospace work – but we are asking them to work together. Slowly it is all beginning to happen and we have key meetings this month which I hope will bring it all together.

The IT partner is critical in all this – the project doesn't have time to negotiate a mass of IT deals – it needs one big partner who can take care of all the IT needs. We have managed to find such a partner and I am really pleased that unlike so many large corporations, this one is entrepreneurial and very fast moving. I am told that we should sign this month.

Truly August is a hugely important month for Bloodhound.

Another major programme coming to fruition is the WPP Saint website programme. If Bloodhound is to be an iconic programme then it has to have an iconic website. We are extremely grateful for the help from the Engineering Technology Board which has helped us get this website up and running. But there is a need for a more advanced web technology now – simply because if we are going to deliver on our objectives, we are going to need to present a vast amount of information in a way which makes it instantly accessible to the readers and teachers. Thanks to help from the Saint team, we now have the way forward – and that's another programme that has its objectives to achieve.

Back at Bristol, Conor La Grue now has 147 companies on the programme and in London the BET team now has 1374 UK schools signed up, with the number growing at 50-100/week. Another set of difficulties – the BET team is very small and under Dave Rowley's leadership has achieved wonders – but we have to deliver to all these schools and there is no way that the small BET team can provide such a huge level of support. As if to underline all this, the Bloodhound On the Road schools roadshow is getting started in October and we are going to need many more Bloodhound Ambassadors. There is of course a way forward – and, you guessed it , the first meeting is in August!

Also in the London Area is the one and only Ian Glover who has built up the 1K club to 1826 members in just under 10 months. It is a huge achievement and when I joined in on the last 1K club event in July, Ian had the club members there and their kids – I have never seen anything like it – we had grandfathers and grandsons building balloon powered cars together. It's becoming a very special event.

And the public response is growing. In July we had the Bloodhound show car on show for the first time in the stand financed by our sponsors STP. It worked extremely well – in fact so well that we had problems dismantling it at the end of the show because visitors kept on coming. It was great to meet the public on this scale and get some sort of idea of how they felt about Bloodhound. We came away knowing there is huge interest and the Bloodhound concept really works well. We sold £11,000 of Bloodhound merchandise in two days. July was the first month that the IK sales revenue topped £25,000!

RichardNoble_at_Hill_House_School This brings me back to the basic question. If we are just building the World's fastest car, then why all this education and media activity which must be taking up so much time and effort? Surely it's the Government's job to encourage the teaching of Science and Technology, why on earth are we, a small record breaking team, getting so deeply involved?

As the project develops, I have come to realised that we simply couldn't do Bloodhound without it. We are in a recession - there is lots of spin around and financial indices are bouncing up and down. Just this week the Bank Of England printed another £50billion of inflationary money, so we are not out of it – and even worse, we haven't reached the bottom of the recession yet. 2010 is election year and no doubt we'll all be told that the recession is behind us – but if that turns out not to be the case, then it's going to take years to recover the economics.

I just don't think that Bloodhound could be done just as a publicity vehicle any more – everything today has to have very obvious benefit to the community. Today we can see Bloodhound doing deals which would be impossible without the education programme.

Back in Bristol, the design team are getting the huge excitement of the project coming together. The controversial aerodynamics at the back end are near to solution, and Ron Ayers has a smile on his face again. It's just a matter of flogging through a few more CFD iterations to get the final rear end shape. Two months ago, John Piper said we would be able to finalise the aero shape by the end of August and it's looking good.

Daniel Jubb and the rocket programme are seriously behind schedule but they now have two cold firings of the 18inch rocket completed and have achieved very high catatyst pack efficiencies. The big push is now to get a full hybrid firing through before the end of August.

So Bloodhound is coming through a quite extraordinary August and I am sorry the report is late again. I promise to make up for it and give you a report in early September – when we can see how many of the crucial August deals have come through to sign off. And I am going to take a 7 day break – we have a very very tough 12 months ahead of us. But through everyone's effort the project is now well placed and we stand a good chance of rolling out Bloodhound in 2010. But make no mistake, we have a very long way to go ……

Author
Richard Noble

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