Learn what it takes for a car to break the sound barrier


In 1997, the Thrust SSC team landed a world record when its car set the world land-speed record of 763 mph. But, taking a car like the Thrust SSC to speeds above 700 mph isn't a simple as holding the steering wheel straight and mashing the throttle. No, there's finesse and precision involved to break records, and subsequently, the sound barrier.

Foremost, it's well known any car starts to move around as speeds climb higher and it doesn't take much to upset a car's balance either. Now, take that basic principle and imagine how much the car is moving at speeds over 500 mph. The video shows the Thrust SSC's driver, Andy Green, actually pointing the steering wheel to the right at almost 90 degrees after speeds of 600 mph. At this point, the air becomes supersonic above and below the car. From here, the car runs in a straight line.

Green also describes the throttle situation, which is very minimal until around 80 percent of the engine's RPM. He says throttle application and speed isn't much different from a typical sedan to ensure the intakes don't suck up debris. Utmost precision and gentle throttle application were necessary to ensure the two afterburning Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines didn't cause the car to wreck. After all, the SSC Thrust produced around 110,000 horsepower. Throughout the run, Green made minor adjustments to the throttle and only at various times did the operations allow for him to run the car flat out. And towards the end of the run, the team realized the car produced a massive sonic boom in the Nevada desert. It's the only car ever to do so.

The Thrust SSC's record still stands today, but Bloodhound SSC will make a run for the record next year. The team says Bloodhound SSC can reach speeds of 1,000 mph.

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