700 MPH IS OF NO INTEREST TO US (1997)

by

“Ladies, gentlemen, and members of the press, we are here to go Mach 1. Getting the record back does not interest us. Going 700 mph does not interest us. We are here to go Mach 1.”

Thus sayeth Richard Noble himself from the podium at a press conference in a downtown Reno casino a couple of days after Labor Day, 1997. His audience is a motley mix of motorsports journalists, a couple of local betacam crews, some curious tourists who stroll away from the keno girls after gazing through the tinted casino windows at what looked to be a phallic-shaped 10-ton spaceship that had landed by the valet parking, and some local street people who are intrigued by the commotion and have sniffed out the prospect of free danishes and coffee.

Noble’s “No Sleep ’till Supersonic” gauntlet is thrown down just hours after his exhausted troops had arrived in Nevada on blitzkrieg rock-and-roll-180 flight from the Farnborough hangar, jet lagged, sleep deprived and immaculately clad in matching green uniforms. They really don’t seem chagrined at the nearly 1-to-1 ratio of street people to electronic journalists…

Indeed, the SSC cadre is in a rare mood, as blithe as they are determined. One team manager describes how the two LSR efforts will share time on the playa with one team securing the lake bed in the morning, the other to use the course in the afternoon, and with a coin toss to settle any disputes.

“Will that be an American or a British coin?” I ask.

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