The Bloodhound team (which aims to break the world land speed record) searched the globe to find the perfect desert to test the fastest car on earth, the British-built Bloodhound SSC. After an intensive search, Hakskeen Pan, in the remote reaches of South Africa’s Northern Cape, was selected. Runway testing will be conducted in the United Kingdom and, all being well, the team will head to Hakskeen Pan in 2015.

Did you know?

The current world land speed record of 1228km/h is held by Thrust SSC, a UK team lead by Bloodhound’s project director, Richard Noble, and driven by Andy Green, who will be driving Bloodhound SSC.

How on earth did the Bloodhound team find Hakskeen Pan, tucked away as it is in the Northern Cape’s never-never land? Fortunately they had satellite imagery and a large clue in the shape of another desert pan in the Northern Cape called Verneuk Pan, which contains the famous Campbell track of 1929. It was here that racing driver Malcolm Campbell attempted to beat the world record, but only managed 350km/h, well short of the 372km/h record set by Henry Segrave earlier that year.

This time round Hakskeen Pan was selected for its long, extremely flat, firm, dry, mud surface. In 2009, a partnership was struck between the Northern Cape government and the United Kingdom-based Bloodhound Project, and the world has been gripped by this challenge ever since.

Locally it’s also generated employment for over 300 people from nearby villages, who are helping to ensure the surface is absolutely clear by removing all stones from the 20km-long, 1.1km-wide track. This amounts to 8 000 truckloads of stones.

It’s extreme work in an extreme desert environment, where the temperatures range between minus 6 degrees Celsius in winter and 45 degrees Celsius in summer. While Hakskeen Pan is flat, the surrounding area has 35m-high dunes; it’s a compelling wilderness area close to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park with its unique semi-desert wildlife, including the Kalahari lions.

While the pan is extremely dry and prone to severe dust storms in winter (May to mid-August), it can be extremely wet in summer. Keep this in mind if you’re planning to visit. To do so you, head approximately 200km north from the town of Upington, which has an airport and which also offers some excellent accommodation and adventure tourism options.

In 2015 conditions will need to be perfectly clear and calm when the Bloodhound SSC, manned by Wing Commander Andy Green – who is the current world land speed record-holder – blasts from zero to 1600km/h, which is 1.4 times the speed of sound. Provisions will be made for spectators to share in this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Northern Cape Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)53 833 1434
Email: northerncapetourism@telkomsa.net

How to get here

Self-drive. Upington lies equidistant from Johannesburg and Cape Town, approximately 800km (500miles) away, in the Northern Cape. Upington has a good airport serviced by all the main cities in South Africa.

Around the area

Try the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park for abundant wildlife.

Get around

Self-drive.

Length of stay

Several days as distances are vast here and the scenery is transfixing.

What to pack

Clothing for extremely hot and cold weather (winters are icy, summers are blazing). Cameras, binoculars, walking shoes, drinking water, food.

Where to stay

The closest large town is Upington, approximately 250km from Hakskeen Pan, and has many accommodation options. There are also lodges and B&Bs in the vicinity of Askham, about 60km away, as well as on surrounding farms.

What to eat

Upington is well-equipped with grocery stores, but the further north you go the less fresh produce is on offer. Come prepared if you are self-catering.

What's happening

The nearby Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a big drawcard in the area. Upington is well-equipped for tourists with a range of adventures on offer, including river rafting on the Orange (Gariep) River.