The success of Britain’s Thrust SSC team, led by Richard Noble, in breaking the sound barrier for the first time in a land vehicle, is a vindication for the design philosophy of the team’s aerodynamicist Ron Ayres.
Ayres was behind the move to abandon the traditional configuration of a single engine behind the driver, as used by rival Craig Breedlove, in favour of two engines flanking the driver.
Missile designer Ayres said the crucial problem to solve was keeping the car on the ground. In an interview with The Engineer in 1995 he said: ‘You can always get the speed you want with a big enough engine. Our approach has been to start with the shape that gives the most stability and then work out how to make it go fast.’
With two engines, the centre of gravity can be placed between widely spaced front wheels recessed into the engine housings. This makes the tail fin more effective and gives good stability about all three axes.
Thrust driver Andy Green said the car was perfectly stable at its design speed of Mach 1. It is theoretically capable of over 800mph.