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Clearing a path for jet car

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More than 10 000 tons of rocks and stones have been removed to provide a smooth platform for the team to try reach 1 000km/*

TEN YEARS ago when Bloodhound Land Speed Record (LSR) driver Andy Green stood at Hakskeenpan contemplating another record attempt, he could never have imagined that all the tiny stones and rocks littering the pan would ever have been cleared.

Yet painstakingly – by hand – every stone and rock was removed from the pan to smooth it out for Green and his team to attempt to break the speed of sound.

More than 10 000 tons of rocks and stones have been removed to provide a smooth platform for the team to try reach 1 000km/* .

But, where have all those rocks and stones gone to?

According to the person who has supervised the collection since the very beginning, Johan van Schalkwyk, most of the stones and rocks have been dumped at a dedicated site, while others have been used as a monument in a tourism precinct that will be developed over the next two years.

“Obviously we can’t use all the rocks and stones which have been collected. We have used some at the precinct which we intend to continue developing over the next two years and we will then incorporate more of what we have collected,” Van Schalkwyk said yesterday.

The rest, he said, will then be shipped off to landfill sites.

Van Schalkwyk said it has been a monumental task for all the workers who have been involved in the project.

“We started out with 325 workers picking up the stones. We then had a three-year lull when nothing happened, but when it was announced that the Bloodhound team would be returning the project was rejuvenated. We then recruited approximately 200 workers to continue. As the project has progressed the hard work has already been done. Some of the workers are now acting as security marshals at all the access points as the team continues its testing.”

However, as Van Schalkwyk pointed out, it wasn’t just a “one-off picking up of the rocks and stones from the track”, which is 20 kilometres long and, including the safety zones, 1.1 kilometres wide”.

“Every time a rock or stone is picked up it’s as if the pan vibrates and more rocks and stones surface,” he said.

Even the smallest little stone is lodged into the clay and needs to be forcibly removed.

The Bloodhound website has claimed Hakskeenpan is “the largest land mass cleared by hand, amounting to the equivalent of

4 000 football pitches”.

Additional work undertaken by the Northern Cape government has been the removal of a large number of stone slabs, the removal of an elevated road surface stretching across the width of the track, and the completion of a new fence to secure the pan from access by animals or vehicles.

One of the workers who has been part of the Bloodhound LSR project since the start 10 years ago, said that nobody would believe what it has meant to not only him and his family, but the community at large.

“It has put food on our table and to be part of this tremendous international project, I can’t even put it into words. We were approximately 300 people who were involved when the project started, but as it advanced, obviously the workforce dwindled. We just hope that the Northern Cape provincial government will not forget us when the record is broken and the project has come to a complete end,” said Andrew Louw.

Green said that when he visited Hakskeenpan for the first time there was also a road that needed to be removed.

He said that Hakskeenpan was chosen for LSR as it provides high security, perfect weather and a flat pan.

“However, it wasn’t so flat when we first came out here 10 years ago. The workmanship has been absolutely unbelievable. All those who worked on making the pan into the racing surface it is today received high honour from the FIA motoring body. The chairperson flew in and presented each and every one with a certificate for their hard work. This is indeed a rare honour,” Green said.