READY FOR 2017: The Mier community in the Northern Cape cleared 16-tonnes of rumble off the Hakskeen pan in preparation for the Bloodhound land-speed record bid. Image: Supplied
Hakskeenpan, Northern Cape - World land speed record holder and Bloodhound SSC driver, Andy Green, joined a list of dignitaries as the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) formally acknowledged the achievements of the Northern Cape’s Mier Community in preparing the track for an upcoming land-speed record attempt.
Dennis Dean, president of the land-speed records commission at the FIA, presented certificates of recognition over to members of the local community for their work removing 16 000 tonnes of rock from 22 million square meters of dry lake bed: the largest area of land ever cleared by hand for a motorsports activity.
Dean said: “It is only when you stand on the vast expanse of Hakskeen Pan and see the piles of rock stacked at the side of the track, that you understand the scale of the work done here. It is an epic achievement.
"Moving 16 000 tonnes of stone, by hand, in hot, dusty conditions, is an incredible undertaking and shows tremendous commitment.”
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Work to find a suitable running site for Bloodhound SSC began in 2007. Green used satellite imagery and a bespoke computer programme created by Swansea University to identify flat areas of earth potentially suitable for a 1600km/h land speed record attempt. After discounting thousand of false hits and following disappointing visits to 13 deserts globally, Verneuk Pan in South Africa remained as the best option.
A subsequent survey commissioned by the Northern Cape brought further disappointment, however, when it was discovered that clearing the surface stones risked disturbing an underlying layer of shale, which would render the surface unusable for high speed racing.
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Hakskeen Pan, a location some 512km northwards of Verneuk Pan, was then suggested. A type of dry lakebed known as an alkali playa, it presented the prospect of a hard, flat surface, 19km long that would be ‘repaired’ by seasonal rains.
A causeway dissected the Pan, but was constructed from easily removable clay, rather than rock. With a new tarmac highway linking the site to Upington, 266km to the south, it soon became clear that Bloodhound had found its track at last.
Looking to 2017
Green said: “Hakskeen Pan is as important to the process of setting a record as the engineering in the car. Without this place, without the support of the local community and (the) Northern Cape Government, we would have nowhere to run Bloodhound SSC.
“The track is one of Bloodhound’s key components and clearing an area equivalent to a six lane highway stretching from Hakskeen Pan to Cape Town, (is) an achievement that our friends in the Mier community can be enormously proud of.
“There are a few minor pieces of work still to be completed but, having inspected the surface and looked at the entire length of the raceway, I am delighted with the condition of the track and in awe at the achievement of the community who created it.”