Richard Noble succeeded against all the odds when his Thrust Supersonic Car (SSC) went supersonic. A true eccentric he has boundless amounts of determination that is evident throughout the many years he has been obsessed with speed records. His quest to break the land speed record has captured the imagination of the British media and has been reported all over the globe.
Born in Edinburgh in 1946, Richard began his career selling paint for Dulux. He chose not to go to university because he preferred to 'get on with life'. But selling paint wasn't exactly the dynamic life he needed. Suffering from boredom, he set off on an expedition from London to Cape Town in a Land Rover. After further expeditions to India and Afghanistan, he returned to the UK.
Richard Noble and Thrust 2 - 633.468 mph
At a very young age, Richard was inspired by John Cobb whom he had seen racing his boat Crusader on Loch Ness only weeks before he died during an attempt on the water speed record. Richard set to work to build his own series of jet-propelled cars with the aim of breaking speed records. He founded Project Thrust in 1974. Working entirely alone and self-taught, he assembled Thrust 1 in the garage of his home in Surrey. Unfortunately, Thrust 1 came to a sticky end in 1977 when a wheel bearing failed as Richard was roaring up the runway of RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire at 200mph. The car flipped over three times and was a right-off, but Richard himself was unhurt.
Richard brought in outside help to construct Thrust 2. Funding was however, more difficult. His determination and various tactics paid off and he managed to secure £1.7m worth of sponsorship in cash or kind from some two hundred British companies. He took the British record in 1980 at RAF Greenham Common.
Richard then travelled to Bonneville Salt Flats in an attempt to capture the world record. But there was a series of setbacks. Back in Britain, Richard crashed Thrust 2, once again at 200mph, during a test run. It was not until 1983 that the car was ready again and a site was located that was not prone to flooding.
Suitably modified the team waited for their weather window, which finally came on October 4th . Well versed in the art of running the jet by now, the team moved into action, no doubt praying that with the last roll of the dice, all the effort and dedication of the years of the project would finally get repaid with that elusive record. The outward run looked good as Thrust kicked up it's characteristic rooster tail of dust, but when the results came, they groaned in disappointment. 624.241 for the mile and 626.240 for the kilo were certainly faster than anybody had ever traveled before, but not by the necessary one percent that would secure the record. How could they be so close and still go unrewarded?
For what proved to be the one that mattered, they pulled the car back as far as they dared, giving Noble every last inch of run-up to the timing traps. It was all or nothing now! Again the car blasted off , and again the rooster stretched across the desert. All they could do was wait for the times, which when they came finally got them their record. 642.971 for the mile and 642.051 for the kilo eclipsed Gabelich's mark at long last, the new LSR being the average for the mile at 633.468mph. Although faster than Blue Flame over the kilometer, it was by the needed one percent, but it didn't matter, the LSR is accepted for either distance. Incredibly, and just to prove the soundness of the engineering, Thrust's peak speed was 650.88mph, a mere 0.88 over it's design limit.
On the vast expanse of the Black Rock desert, Richard took the world record reaching 633.468 mph. And that was it! As Richard later declared, "For Britain and the hell of it!" An appropriate sentiment for a superb accomplishment. Richard Noble, became Richard Noble OBE thanks to the UK's honours system.
The Thrust 2 team meets every year on the anniversary of the record, and as you read this in the tenth year of that record, most of those involved will be gathering at Bruno's, Gerlach to relive a major achievement of which they can all be justifiably proud.
Richard Noble Autobiography
To achieve the supersonic record, Richard handed over responsibility for driving the car to Squadron Leader Andy Green; not an easy decision for a man who had conceived and dedicated all his time to one project. But when the car hurtled through the Nevada desert and into the record books, the glory belonged to one man. Despite some criticism that it was merely 'Boy's Own Stuff', Richard captured the headlines.
Richard is an entertaining after-dinner speaker and unique conference speaker. He is currently much in demand for sharing his experiences on exactly what it is like to have a car go supersonic!
Not one to let the grass grown under his feet: Thrust SSC under construction
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