“Take Risk!”: Richard Noble’s land speed record book review


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Richard Noble is a legend of the automotive world having claimed the land speed record as both a driver and programme director.

Does that qualify his book, Take Risk!, for review on a website which focuses on motor sport? RaceFans editor Keith, arch-wielder of the flimsy pretext, noted that the land speed record is an FIA-regulated activity, and gave me the nod.

Good thing he did, for Take Risk! is a top read. According to its dust jacket this is not Noble’s autobiography but rather, “the story of the people and decisions that make his land speed attempts, and other adventures possible”. That description rather undersells this really charming book: Half ‘boys own’ chronicle, half motivational lecture, wholly enthralling.

What this means in practice is that fascinating behind-the-scenes stories are told not only from those land speed record-busting Thrust projects but, just as interestingly, Noble’s attempts to break into the aviation sector. As a lifting of the curtain into some of the deals, plans and – yes – risks taken to get such projects up and running, this is fascinating stuff.

If you’re hoping for a retread of Bluebird and the Dead Lake you’ll need to look elsewhere, as the actual record-breaking runs are scarcely covered. That said there are some brilliant stories, particularly on the driver selection process for Thrust SCC, plus Noble’s perspective on the trials and tribulations of the Bloodhound project, intended to break the 1,000mph barrier on land, which consumed over a decade of his time before collapsing into administration last year.

Noble is a fine storyteller who also manages to get a number of serious points across, many of which readers may find real-world applications for, without ever seeming preachy or repetitive. Although not a pre-requisite, you’ll probably get the most from Take Risk! if you’re interested in the business side of the automotive world, or work in a project-based environment.

Something that also comes through is that Noble is fully aware of his status representing automotive innovation, and is good at surrounding himself with a similarly minded team (Andy Green is certainly in my top-three interviewees).

Take Risk! is fun, Noble’s writing style is approachable, direct and engaging, and the chapters rattle by (in marked contrast to, say, our previous review, which included two pages on Richard Seaman’s father’s bequests to his half-sister). And while this is no ‘coffee table book’, the printing quality is high and picture section well-chosen.

Richard Noble seems like exactly the sort of fellow you’d like to take for a beer. While social distancing makes that impossible, reading Take Risk! is the next-best thing.

RaceFans rating

Rating four out of five

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“Take Risk!”

Author: Richard Noble
Publisher: Evro
Published: 2020
Pages: 272
Price: £19.99
ISBN: 9781910505519

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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9 comments on ““Take Risk!”: Richard Noble’s land speed record book review”

  1. Rocket or a jet on wheels is not a car. Period.
    Any “land speed record” set using such contraption is totally irrelevant, and brings nothing to the table of advancing science or “car”-technology.

    I don’t have anything against this Richard Noble guy, he might be cool and great, but that’s it. Don’t associate his name with anything car-related.

    1. Read the book, learn the history and understand the degree of this challenge. You might realize the difficulty of LSR racing and maybe appreciate it more so by opening up the limits of your opinion. Not a sport?? Ask those who have dedicated their lives to LSR over the past hundred years. It’s a mighty challenge.

    2. A lot of people would say the same about F1.

    3. Bloodhound LSR (formerly Bloodhound SSC) has a specific Department called Bloodhound Education of which I am very proud to be an Ambassador.

      Bloodhound Education is specifically aimed at sharing the innovation and technology advances necessary to reach 1000mph on land, and trying to inspire and educate the youth (and not quite so young) of today. They have a specific Education centre at Bloodhound’s home in Berkeley Gloucestershire and have a travelling option that can attend schools, universities and exhibitions.

      The scientific advances that Bloodhound specifically has required and achieved are remarkable – and are still progressing.

      Bloodhound may not be a ‘traditional’ car but it’s got 4 wheels and goes along the ground which is pretty close.

      Learn to embrace speed technology a bit more openly….

  2. How does this compare to his old book Thrust? Is much from that repeated?

  3. The challenge to be fastest of all has peaked mans interest for over 100 years.
    Success at this level comes to few men or women. The technology to get started overwhelms most who try. I recently drove my medical transportation car over 100mph and thought I am flying now. Consider how difficult it is to hit each step of 100, then 200 etc. on and on. Takes a fat wallet and a big nuts to get to 300, then 400. Hey your halfway there.
    Get to 800mph and you’ve just had your own “moon shot”. It’s as close to impossible as the challenge itself.
    LSR Racing is in another league. It takes imagination, technology, big dreams and bigger balls and of course a butt load of dollar bills.
    When I was a kid I witnessed Craig Breedlove first set records of 400, 500 and 600 and was limited by car failure to not achieve 750mph before the car suddenly at 700mph the car turned left and didn’t roll. Try that one nearly five times faster than any current F1 car. The BMW flat out at Bonneville hit +400 KPH and not the 763 MPH record.
    LSR is for dreamers. The goal of the overall speed record has taken many from us yet for those who succeed creates memories that last forever.
    Like FormulaOne Racing those who seek the LSR are a special breed. Richard Noble like Craig Breedlove are both special humans with unique passion.

  4. Jesse Combs would dissagree, it she was alive . LSR makes no sense to me.

  5. Richard Noble must have upset someone up high, because I can’t understand why he’s never been knighted for his work on the LSR. Thrust SSC was a British success story, not only for Noble, Andy Green and the team, but also the many university students that worked in the background. Swansea University’s Computational Fluid Dynamics team worked on the original THRUST SSC. I’d expect some of the graduates will be working in F1. So there’s your connection.

    His first book was a good read, I’ll be looking out for his new one.

  6. Sorry – I should have said that Bloodhound Education is a separate entity from Bloodhound LSR but works very closely with the project….and from the same location.

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