Australian race crew in faster-than-a-bullet bid (Update)

October 18, 2012 by Amy Coopes

An Australian race crew hoping to beat their British rivals to a new supersonic land-speed record of over 1,000mph launched their bid Thursday, unveiling the first parts of their rocket-powered car.

Daredevil drag-racer Rosco McGlashan has dreamed of being the fastest man on wheels since, aged 12, he saw Britain's Donald Campbell hit 403 miles (645 kilometres) per hour on Australia's Lake Eyre saltpan in 1964.

The record has been smashed several times since and currently stands at a blistering 763mph—faster than the speed of sound—set by another Briton, Andy Green, in 1997.

McGlashan believes he can go quicker still and top 1,000mph using rocket technology to propel his 200,000-horsepower super-car, Aussie Invader 5R, set to blast off in 2014, 50 years after he first eyed Campbell's mark.

If successful, McGlashan will travel faster than a bullet, going from 0-1,000mph in 20 seconds as he rips through three tonnes of rocket fuel.

Like Austrian adventurer Felix Baumgartner who made headlines this week with a spectacular freefall jump from the edge of space, McGlashan believes it is important to push the boundaries of human knowledge and endurance.

"A lot of people will say 'Oh that's great but how does that benefit mankind?'," McGlashan, 62, told AFP.

"But there's just so many spin-offs with it—the physics, the science, the technology that goes into developing something like this is a win-win for everyone."

McGlashan jokes that he has served the "world's longest apprenticeship" in speed, having raced V8 motorcycles and rocket-powered go-karts in an esteemed speedway career in Australia and the US spanning four decades.

Rosco McGlashan holds a model of his rocket car that he and his team hope to use to break the land-speed record. The team hopes to break the 1000 mph mark using rocket technology to propel the 200,000-horsepower super-car Aussie Invader 5R, in Sydney.

"But it's all been a culmination to where we're at now, where we've nearly built, nearly completed the world's best, fastest land-speed car."

Breaking the speed mark is not all McGlashan has to contend with—Britain's Green is also gunning for the 1,000mph record with his hybrid Bloodhound SSC.

It's a showdown already being dubbed the "Land-Speed Ashes", a play on Australia's famous and long-standing cricket rivalry with England.

"It's part of their patriotism, the land-speed record's been in the UK for 1,000 years," he said.

"But we've got a lot more powerful car, a lot tighter-knit group of guys and we believe that we can go out and blitz them."

Two US teams are also plotting a land-speed attempt, including one headed by former record holder Craig Breedlove, but McGlashan said they have not set their sights on the ambitious 1,000mph target.

The Aus$4 million (US$4.2 million), 16-metre (53-foot) Invader 5R will be powered by a missile rocket fuelled with liquid oxygen and a kerosene-based biofuel.

Rosco McGlashan inspects one of the specially designed wheels he hopes will allow his team to break the land speed record by going through the 1000 mph mark.

It will travel at three times the force of gravity and faster than the speed of sound.

The car's weight—nine tonnes when fully fuelled—will help to keep it grounded, with a downward-tilted nose-cone and small adjustable wings or canards on either side of the front section designed to counter any lift.

Reaching and maintaining such speeds requires highly specialised materials and technology; complicating matters is the fact that the feat must be achieved twice within a one-hour window two qualify for a record.

This involves being able to slow and stop the car, refuel and go again within 60 minutes, with the record calculated as an average of the two attempts.

McGlashan has missed the record before, in 1996, when he hit 643mph in the Invader III but was unable to complete a second pass due to poor weather.

It is not without risks and McGlashan admits to being "terrified". "The thing with a rocket is you flick the go switch and it can explode... Particularly with this car here you're sitting on a bomb."

The team hopes to begin test runs of the streamlined, bullet-shaped car next year.

They are targeting a record attempt in 2014, the same year as the British team.

Explore further: Design chosen for British 1,000 mph car (w/ Video)

Related Stories

Design chosen for British 1,000 mph car (w/ Video)

November 25, 2009

( -- A British team hoping to be the first to get a car to 1,000 mph (1,610 km/h) has made its final design selection. The six-tonne car, known as the Bloodhound, will be powered by a Eurofighter jet engine mounted ...

The Bloodhound SSC: Faster than a speeding bullet

October 5, 2012

Twenty-nine years ago today, Richard Noble in Thrust2 broke the land speed record for Britain at 633.468 mph in October 1983. That day saw the start of my love affair with the land speed record. Again in September 1997 Richard ...

300 mph: New Land Speed Record for a Hydrogen Powered Vehicle

September 28, 2009

( -- One of the complaints that many have with regard to vehicles powered by alternative energy is the fact that they don't really have a lot of speed. However, this does not necessarily have to be the case. Last ...

1,000 mph car to be built next year

November 23, 2010

( -- The "Bloodhound SSC," a car expected to be able to travel at 1,000 mph (around 1,600 km/h) or faster, is on track to be constructed in the UK early next year. The design was finalized last year, as reported ...

Electric-car Nemesis at top speeds is record-breaker

September 29, 2012

(—Fans call it the first "electric super car" for a reason. The UK-built on Thursday smashed the UK electric car land-speed record, topping 151 mph. The Nemesis was at an airfield near York, completing two runs ...

Recommended for you

Old, meet new: Drones, high-tech camera revamp archaeology

November 24, 2017

Scanning an empty field that once housed a Shaker village in New Hampshire, Jesse Casana had come in search of the foundations of stone buildings, long-forgotten roadways and other remnants of this community dating to the ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 18, 2012
(if I may be so bold as to suggest...) Think about the fastest you ever went with a wheel in your hands and subtract that from 1000 and contemplate the rest on any surface you wish to imagine. Be sure to leave in the atmosphere and all that lovely drag and turbulence and keep in mind that any rollover is almost certainly fatal.

This McGlashan is a bona fide dare devil. Baumgartner, by contrast, is somewhat more the adventurer. For him, a lot of tested technology had to fail for there to be an unsolvable problem with his 'flight'.

McGlashan needs an exceptional amount of technology to perform nearly flawlessly - just to stay alive - at speeds still well under 1000mph. -At a minimum- that thing has to be ~massively~ aero-stable when supersonic.
1 / 5 (1) Oct 19, 2012
With metal wheels, any bump or depression will lead to a very quick change in the angle the car is going, and I'd be concerned that the aerodynamic fins won't be able to compensate quickly enough to keep the car on a straight track. I wish McGlashan success.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.