In October 1983 the British driver Richard Noble set a new land speed record, driving Thrust 2 to an average speed of 633 mph, eclipsing a record that had stood for almost 13 years. Read about the record, the car and the driver.
04 October 1983 – the date on which Richard Noble drove Thrust 2 to a new World Land Speed Record, at Black Rock Desert in Nevada.
633.468 mph – the record-breaking speed averaged over the 2 runs of the measured mile (1019.468 km/h).
624.241 mph – the speed recorded on the outward run (1004.619 km/h).
642.971 mph – the speed achieved on the return run (1034.762 km/h).
13 years – the length of time that the previous record had stood (12 years, 11 months, 11 days), set by Gary Gabelich in The Blue Flame.
12 miles – the length (20 km) of flat, dried-out lake bed available to the team at Black Rock.
10.5 miles – the approximate distance traveled on each run.
110 seconds – the time taken to cover an average run, from start to stop.
11 – the total number of times that Thrust 2 was taken above 600 mph (966 km/h) during the 1983 season.
650.88 mph – the quickest single run the car ever achieved (1047.490 km/h).
7 mph – the amount of additional speed (11 km/h) at which Thrust 2 would have been liable to take off, according to modern computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Upon discovering this, Richard Noble is reported to have replied, “if I knew that at the time I would have gone a bit faster”.
13 years – the length of time that Thrust 2 retained the speed record, until it was beaten by Richard Noble’s new project, Thrust SSC, which was driven to 763 mph by Andy Green.
1980 – the year that Thrust 2 started breaking British speed records, 3 years before setting the world land speed record.
The Thrust 2 story was no fairy tale. Instead, it was the product of opportunism, determination, and a relentless refusal to give up in the face of adversity. David Tremayne
6 – the number of consecutive British speed records that Thrust 2 set, using the runway at RAF Greenham Common.
25 September 1980 – the date Thrust 2 set a new British Land Speed Record for the flying mile, of 248.87 mph.
September 1981 – the month Richard Noble and the Thrust 2 team first traveled to the Bonneville Salt Flats.
£75,000 – the amount paid out to the Thrust 2 team by their insurers, after unexpected heavy rain curtailed the team’s visit to Bonneville.
500 mph – the speed achieved during this first visit, with higher speeds being hampered first by the solid wheels (which proved inefficient) and then completely halted by the rain (which made the salt flats unusable).
£50,000 – the cost of the damage caused following a crash at RAF Greenham Common in 1982, when driver error (the visual braking marker was not spotted due to poor weather) resulted in Thrust 2 rolling at 200 mph when the parachute collapsed. The roll was necessary, however, to avoid a quarry at the end of the runway.
October 1982 – the month in which the team arrived in Black Rock Desert in Nevada (after again having to abandon Bonneville due to bad weather).
590.551 mph – the highest two-way average speed (805.559 km/h) the team could achieve before winter set in (a world record for a British driver but short of the existing 622 mph land speed record).
1 – the number of power units used in the car, a Rolls-Royce Avon 302 with reheat.
30,000 hp – the thrust produced by the engine (16,800 lb).
59 seconds – the time it took to accelerate to 650 mph from a standing start (9 seconds to reach 200 mph, 20 seconds to reach 400 mph, and 40 seconds to reach 600 mph).
300 mph – the approximate speed (483 km/h) at which the tail fins started to settle the car, which until this speed was “all over the place”.
600 mph – the approximate speed (966 km/h) at which a shock wave started to appear in front of the engine, appearing as a mist surrounding the car (later described by Noble as “really something to see”).
27 ft 4 in – the length of Thrust 2 (8.3 m).
8 ft 4 in – the width of the car (2.5 m).
4 ft 3 in – the height of the car measured to the top of the main bodywork (1.3 m).
7 ft 0 in – the height of the car measured to the top of the fins (2.1 m).
150 ft – the turning circle (45.7 m).
5 inches – the amount of ground clearance beneath the car (0.1 m).
4 tonnes – the weight of the car, fully-fueled.
124 gallons – the total fuel capacity of the car (Jet A 1 kerosene), divided equally between 2 fuel tanks (each being a rubber bag contained within an aluminium case).
60 gallons per minute – the total fuel consumption for each record run.
10 gallons – the fuel consumption per mile.
2 – the number of tail fins used to improve the handling and aerodynamics of the car.
375 mph – the decelerated speed (604 km/h) at which the three drag parachutes could be deployed.
7 ft 6 in – the diameter of each parachute.
6 – the G-force experienced when the parachute was released.
130 mph – the approximate deceleration (209 km/h), per second, under parachute breaking.
100 mph – the approximate speed (161 km/h) at which the 15 inch brake discs could be deployed.
9 years – the time that Richard Noble spent working on Project Thrust, from conception to the successful record attempt.
1977 – the year that the Thrust 2 project was officially launched, at the 1977 Motorfair at London’s Earls Court.
1978 – the year that construction of Thrust 2 commenced, with newly-recruited designer John Ackroyd working from a derelict cottage on the Isle of Wight.
£90,000 – the asking price when Thrust 2 was put up for sale in 1991 (a fundraising campaign ensured the car remained in Britain, and it is now on display at the Coventry Transport Museum, England).
That’s it, never again. Mind you, you don’t know what the future holds. Richard Noble, interviewed by the Telegraph newspaper in 2002, when asked whether he had finished with the Land Speed Record
06 March 1946 – the date that Richard James Anthony Noble was born, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
6 – the age at which Richard Noble witnessed John Cobb’s Crusader jet boat being preparing for a Water Speed Record attempt, during a family holiday near Loch Ness in Scotland in 1952, the event that sparked Noble’s dream of attaining the Land Speed Record.
1959 – the year in which Noble started his studies at Winchester College, leaving in 1964 before attending the Army Outward Bound School in Towyn, Wales in 1966.
£15 – the amount Noble paid for his first car, a second-hand 1936 SSII saloon (registration number DPK 46), purchased from a scrapyard in Guildford in the mid-1960s. He sold it less than 2 years later, for £30.
1966 – the year he started work at ICI, serving in the Paints Division initially, before joining the Fibres Division in 1968, and remaining in this role until he left the company in 1971.
1971 – the year Noble led an overground expedition from London to Cape Town and then returning Cape Town to London via India.
1974 – the year that Noble commenced his plan to reclaim the World Land Speed Record, building the self-designed, and somewhat crude, Thrust 1.
1977 – the year in which Thrust 1 crashed during a run at RAF Fairford, due to a seized wheel bearing failure.
180 mph – the speed at which Noble crashed Thrust 1 (290 km/h).
£175 – the money raised from the sale of the damaged Thrust 1 car to a scrap merchant (the funds were used to buy a Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engine).
1983 – the year that Noble was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE).
18 November 2010 – the date on which Noble was awarded an honorary Doctor of Technology by the University of the West of England.