LONDON-The Bloodhound supersonic car has reached its highest speed yet of 491mph (790km/h). Tuesday was the sixth time the arrow-shaped racer had run across Hakskeen Pan in South Africa.

Each time it goes out, driver Andy Green pushes the vehicle a little more, gathering the data that will enable it to safely break the sound barrier, and the land speed record of 763mph. That can’t happen until 2020, when a rocket is added to the car.

At the moment, Bloodhound is operating on just the thrust of its Eurofighter EJ200 jet engine. But as Tuesday’s outing showed, this vehicle has tremendous potential.

“The EJ200 caned the car all the way up to 500mph, or rather just a fraction under. 491mph,” Wing Commander Green told BBC News.

“The principle aim of today was to measure the slowdown, from 500 down to 200, to measure the aerodynamic drag. We’ve got all that data; it’s now back to crunch the numbers.” The car departs in a cloud of dust as the dried mud that covers this flattest of pans kicks up into the air. Once the dust clears, Bloodhound is nowhere to be seen. It’s disappeared through the heat haze and has thundered over the horizon.

A second run was planned for Tuesday but was abandoned when inspections at the far end of the 10-mile-long (16km) track revealed some bodywork damage.