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An Interview with Richard Noble, author “Take Risk!”

Englishman Richard Noble, author of “Take Risk!,” brought the Land Speed Record back to Great Britain in 1983 when he drove his Thrust2 car to 633 mph. Fourteen years later, he led the ThrustSSC team to achieve the first and only supersonic record at 763 mph with Andy Green driving.

By jeff mason

April 28, 2021

In his book, he tells the extraordinary stories of his 11 projects in record-breaking and aviation that all saw people and companies go out of their way to join him in his exciting endeavors — and take risk.

What do you believe makes a person have these great desires to break Land Speed Records and basically fly on the ground?

I think we all have a desire to achieve something special while we are in our short term on the planet. I was fascinated by the tremendous advances made in aircraft design and performance in the 1950s and ’60s but I didn’t want to join the old Command and Control aerospace companies. The Land Speed Record is socially acceptable and is a great challenge and opportunity for the innovators.

What compelled you to take such risks early on, then build Thrust1 initially to set these records?

Well, if you have decided there is something you really want to do in life, you had better get on and do it and take the risks. I never wanted to have to admit to my children that I had a burning ambition and lacked the courage to at least make a start.

How significant/important is taking risk in order to achieve your dreams?

These whole projects are about taking risk and managing risk. Unfortunately, you need long experience of taking risk to be able to manage risk. So, you had better get started by taking risk.

Why was bringing the Land Speed Record back to Great Britain so important?

The British love their cars and motor racing is very important. The Brits held the World record from the ’20s until the ’60s and then the Americans showed us how to take it on. I felt it was very important for our country to show a bit of courage and leadership and make another attempt. We are an Island race and we love motor racing and outright challenge.

How important was teamwork to achieving your goals?

Outstanding teamwork was absolutely essential to these projects which are team projects and for everyone a personal tombstone achievement. We try to operate a flat company so everyone has defined responsibilities and appropriate authority. Communication is everything and, of course, emails have a huge beneficial effect. Speed of progress and team trust is absolutely essential. This leads to very high levels of personal motivation. During the ThrustSSC project we had to close the doors on Sundays because the team were overworking and this was a real risk to project survival. Everyone personally is absolutely crucial to the success of the project .

How often did you decide to give up after sponsors withdrew?


What tracks in Great Britain are best to be used for setting Land Speed Records?

We only have 1.9-mile Cold War runways not long enough for serious speed.

Do you still feel it’s a Great Britain record when set on U.S. soil…or salt?

Our records are always joint records when running in the U.S. We have the U.K. and U.S. flags on the car to make that clear. The U.S. help we have had has always been just brilliant!

When and why did you decide to step out of a Land Speed Record-running vehicle? Or have you?

I wanted to drive the ThrustSSC but making the finance was so incredibly difficult that there was never going to be time to practice. I had also put my family through the Thrust2 record attempts and it was time to find a better driver than me.

Which do you prefer? Running on salt or on sand?

For very high speeds we don’t have an option. We need solid tireless wheels for the very high speed and they don’t work on salt like Bonneville.

Richard Noble author of Take Risks

Do you think of yourself as a daredevil?

Absolutely not. As a team, we do the research and, with thorough research behind us, we take low risk.

What goes through your mind as you’re about to light up a 600-700-mph projectile to run for a record?

I really enjoy it but I am deeply concerned to do a good job and not let the team down.

How does it feel when it’s over?

Absolutely terrible. As a team, we would have worked together for many years to achieve the objective and once we had gained it there is no team purpose to hold us all together, and we have to go home. But we still try to meet once a year.

What’s still missing?

When I worked in industry I learned that retirement is a very big mistake. If you want to live and love long you have to keep battling.

Are there any other speed attempts on the horizon for you?

All kinds of opportunities are developing fast. After COVID, Britain has to get back on its feet again quickly. Let’s hope we can be a part of that.

Richard Noble was brought up at a time of great British technical advances during the Cold War and was inspired by innovative record breakers such as John Cobb, whom he witnessed, when aged 6, in the innovative Crusader jet boat on Loch Ness in 1952. After education at Winchester College, his early career — first in insurance, then international sales with ICI — was gradually subsumed in his obsession with record breaking, which bore first fruit when he built Thrust 1, his first jet car, in 1974. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Take Risk!” is available at, 800-328-0590,, specialist and online booksellers.

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