By Jonathan Amos, science correspondent for the BBC

The Bloodhound land speed challenger is likely to be back out on its South African lakebed track early next week, after the cause of a mechanical fault was identified.

Engineers are now satisfied they understand why a heat alarm has been triggering on the car when it runs.

Bloodhound was in the middle of trying to post a speed of 885km/h on Friday when the sensor system alerted driver Andy Green that temperatures might be too high in the engine bay.

He aborted, pulling up early having reached only 774km/h.

Watch the Bloodhound supercar get off the line:

Something similar occurred on Wednesday as well, although right at the end of the run when the vehicle was slowing down.

But by Saturday afternoon, the British Bloodhound team had split open the upper-chassis of the car for inspection, including of that troublesome sensor, and concluded there was nothing seriously awry.

Known as a “firewire”, the sensor is essentially two parallel wires running through a plastic sheath.

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This wiring criss-crosses the engine bay. When it gets too hot, the plastic melts and the two metal cores touch, triggering the alarm.

 Andy Green with a model of the Bloodhound SSC (Supersonic Car) at its unveiling in New Delhi.

Driver Andy Green was forced to abort the Bloodhound’s last trial but engineers are now confident they can sort the mechanical problem. Photo: AFP

Engineers could find sections of firewire that had bubbled and warped, indicating they had experienced heating, but separate temperature strips in the bay revealed that nothing had approached the level of a fire risk.

Chief engineer Mark Chapman said: “The temperature stickers on the walls of the bay tell us it wasn’t really hot enough in there that firewire would normally trigger. So, it’s possible there may have been some local heating, but it could be as simple as the firewire touching the hot engine casing. We’ll replace it and then get back out there.”

Wednesday looks to be the next day of running.

Bloodhound has been steadily winding up its speed on Hakskeen Pan as it works towards a challenge on the land speed record in 12 or 18 months’ time.

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Its fastest outing so far was on Wednesday when it posted 806km/h. This is a long way short of the all time record of 1228km/h set 22 years ago, but Bloodhound is currently still operating well within its performance limits.

Its Rolls-Royce EJ200 Eurofighter engine should be capable of pushing the car beyond 965km/h, and with the coming addition of a rocket motor from the Norwegian Nammo company – a top speed of more than 1287km/h ought to be a realistic goal.

Relief for team owner

Bloodhound team owner Ian Warhurst is relieved Saturday’s inspection didn’t throw up anything serious. And while splitting open the upper-chassis is no easy task, he said it’s allowed engineers to fix one or two other technical niggles as well.

“The systems guys can dig in deep; they’ve got all sorts of things they’ve been desperate to do. And we haven’t been getting data from the right-rear suspension. There are computer boxes in that corner we just couldn’t get to without taking the top off. We can now,” the Yorkshire businessman said.

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The Bloodhound team arrived in the Kalahari Desert in mid-October and probably has another couple of weeks of testing before packing up for the season.

To some extent, the top speed this year is irrelevant; what’s more important is that the team leaves Hakskeen Pan with the data to validate its design models and that driver Andy Green is attuned to – and comfortable with – Bloodhound’s handling.

Only six vehicles in the history of the land speed record have raced above 600mph (965km/h): Sonic 1, Blue Flame, Thrust2, Budweiser Rocket, Sonic Arrow and Thrust SSC, the current record holder.

A 621mph would be a nice-to-have here on the Pan before going home. It’s a pleasant round 1000km/h.

“I’m well aware of that,” said Ian Warhurst with a grin on his face.

– BBC