Richard Noble certainly knows a thing or two about taking risk, in more than one sense of the word. Whether it is the challenges of driving a car at speeds incomprehensible to mere mortals, or the financial risk of putting together a project that would etch his name into world history.
Noble, born in Edinburgh in 1946, has built a career out of high-risk projects, most famously being his two Land Speed Record cars Thrust2 and ThrustSSC, the latter of which still holds the record to this very day.
Noble has recalled his experience working on these and many other projects in the book Take Risk!, written by the man himself. The book was published by Evro Publishing in April and it takes an in-depth look at Noble’s various projects and endeavours over the years.
In the book, Noble takes you through a tour of his various projects in twelve chapters. Naturally, it goes in depth on the origins of the Thrust projects and the subsequent successes of Thrust2 and ThrustSSC. By doing this, Noble gives a deep and fascinating insight on how these projects came about, the hardships, challenges and near-misses. It gives you a clear picture of just how difficult it was to achieve these records, not just from the engineering side, but from the business side as well.
Noble explains that the funding for his projects almost always comes from sponsorship. As he put it himself: “Sponsorship funding is critical because it enables a project to be its own master: sponsors pay for publicity and the project team is allowed to get on with its activities unsupervised.”
The downside of this is that many of the projects are often in near-constant financial difficulty and the book shows that many of his projects often got a lucky break and carried on, but often times also did not.
While the Thrust2 and ThrustSSC projects ultimately were successful, the book also details a number of ventures, that despite the best of intentions, financially just did not play out. Noble’s two aviation endeavours are good examples of this, but none more so than the BloodhoundSSC.
BloodhoundSSC was Noble’s most recent attempt at a new Land Speed Record, but the project went into bankrupcty after financial woes. It has since been bought by entrepreneur Ian Warhurst, but Noble, despite his best efforts, is no longer involved. As Bloodhound’s troubles are described from Noble’s perspective, you get a good picture of the lenghts the team had to go to succeed, and the crushing defeat of having to let the project go after its bankrupcty.
Aside from record breaking, Noble also goes in depth on the various aviation projects he got involved in, which also includes a passenger ride on a record-breaking run on Concorde, as well as two start-ups with separate premises that sadly did not live up to their potential due to financial woes. ARV Super2, which was the production of a light aircraft that started well but met its untimely end after sponsor woes, and Farnborough Aircraft, a new, air-taxi style service that never lived up to its potential.
These projects give a fascinating insight, from a first-person perspective, of how challenging it can be to get these projects off the ground, which makes for an engaging read.
This perspective adopted by Noble definitely plays into the book’s advantage. The author is able to give a personal, capitivating account of his many trial and error experiences throughout the years and has an affectious writing style, perhaps best summed by an early passage on why the Land Speed Record cars were given the Thrust name:
“The word ‘Thrust’ is a happy coincidence,” Noble writes in the book’s second chapter. “For the serious aero engineer, it describes the push developed by a jet engine and is measured in pounds. For the less observant marketing executive, it can allude to an intense personal biological activity between consenting adults. We found both groups highly appreciative of the name.”
All in all, Richard Noble’s Take Risk is a great read and insight into Noble’s various projects and the lenghts he and his team had to go and the risks they had to take to achieve their goals – and sometimes fail.
All images provided to Motorsport Week by Evro Publishing