Motorcycle World Land Speed Record – Can Triumph do it again?

Motorcycle World Land Speed Record - Can Triumph do it again?
Triumph Motorcycles Gyronaut X-1
Motorcycle World Land Speed Record - Can Triumph do it again?
Triumph Motorcycles Gyronaut X-1

Triumph Motorcycles Land Speed Record History/Future

Triumph Motorcycles is no stranger to the land speed racing record books.  As of the close of the 2013 season, Triumph branded bikes held 38 current AMA National class speed records and four FIM World Records.

Where sleek, streamlined speed machines and absolute world records are concerned, Triumph branded machines have a long history at the top.

Motorcycle World Land Speed Record - Can Triumph do it again?
Triumph Motorcycles ad in Cycle magazine, Nov. 1956

For example, back in 1956, Texan Johnny Allen took his Triumph powered streamliner to 214.40 mph in the measured mile (left, as the news appeared in full page Triumph ad in Cycle magazine, Nov. 1956), which also established new AMA National speed records in the 40 cubic inch (650 cc non-supercharged) class A.

In 1958, with Jess Thomas at the controls the same Triumph streamliner stretched the record to 214.47 mph.  At the same meet, Triumph branded bikes also set records in the 500 cc non-streamlined, non-supercharged class of 212.278 mph with Jess Thomas riding; in the 650 cc conventional motorcycle class C at 147.240 mph with Bill Johnson at the controls and in the 500 cc conventional motorcycle class C at 133.395 mph with Johnson riding again.

In 1965, Bob Leppan took the Triumph powered Gyronaut X-1 to the Salt and set a new record in the S/C 3000 class at 212.689 mph.  In 1966, Leppan and the X-1 shattered their own record at 245.667 mph.

In August of this year, Triumph will be at the Bonneville Salt Flats again with the 25 foot-long Castrol Rocket aiming for a new motorcycle land speed world record and a target speed of 400 mph!

Officially known as the Hot Rod Conspiracy/Carpenter Racing Castrol Rocket, the machine is the joint undertaking of aerodynamics engineer Matt Markstaller, engine builder Bob Carpenter and Daytona 200 winner Jason DiSalvo.

The Castrol Rocket has already seen the Bonneville Salt Flats, having been run there in August, 2013, as part of the development phase.  DiSalvo was the pilot for those development runs and was the pilot when a Triumph Rocket III set an FIM world and AMA national record in the 3,000cc M/AF class at 174.292 mph in 2012.  With that experience on the salt, DiSalvo has no illusions about the challenges—and rewards—of running for world records at Bonneville.

“Land speed racing is the purest form of motorsport. It’s about bringing all of your ingenuity, resources and determination together for a constant battle against the elements,” DiSalvo says.

“The salt surface has little traction. The wind pushes against you from every side. But what’s really special about Bonneville Land Speed Racing is the people. The conditions are so challenging that for the past 100 years, racers with little else in common have banded together to support and encourage each other to become the world’s fastest.”

DiSalvo will have his work cut out for him trying to break the current world motorcycle land speed record of 376.156 mph, set in 2010, by Rocky Robinson with the Ack Attack streamliner.  On the other hand, he will have one of the most technologically advanced machines ever put on the salt at his disposal for the record attempt.

Motorcycle World Land Speed Record - Can Triumph do it again?
Triumph Castrol Rocket

The Castrol Rocket is powered by two de-stroked, liquid-cooled three cylinder Triumph Rocket III engines that produce an estimated combined 1,000 hp at 9,000 RPM and 500 lb/ft of torque.  That’s right—the Carpenter Racing built engines were reduced from 2,294cc to 1,485cc (2,970cc total) to meet the 3,000cc maximum total displacement class rule requirement.

To achieve that, stroke length was reduced from the stock 3.75” to 2.4”, which enables engine speed to reach around 9,000 RPM more easily.  The engine blocks, head castings and valves are stock with CNC porting by Carpenter.  Cam shafts, valve springs and valve spring retainers are by Carpenter Racing, as well. Castrol 4T 10W40 full synthetic oil will lubricate the engines.

Each engine is fueled by a liquid-cooled Garrett turbocharger on a system designed by Carpenter Racing and Precision Chassis, fabricated by Precision Chassis, which will be feeding the engines a diet of methanol.  Compression ratios are not disclosed but the connecting rods are Crower titanium and the crank is a marine billet item, indicating that everything is designed to be very heavy duty.

The front suspension is a double swingarm and rear suspension is a single swingarm system, both designed by Carpenter Racing.  Shock absorbers are Ohlins TTX36 adjustable with 3 shocks in the front and 2 at the rear.  Hot Rod Conspiracy designed a center hub steering system for the machine, as well as its custom wheels, which are shod with Goodyear Land Speed Special tires.

Stopping the thing will be handled by twin ribbon-style parachutes and carbon/carbon disc brake on the rear wheel only.  The whole thing is pulled together by a Carbon Kevlar monocoque chassis.

“This project is a celebration of Castrol and Triumph’s motorsports heritage, innovation, courage and perseverance,” says Greg Heichelbech, President and CEO, Triumph Motorcycles North America. “It’s an incredible opportunity to simultaneously chase history and celebrate our heritage. Our hats are off to the Hot Rod Conspiracy/Carpenter Racing team and all of the racers who make land speed racing such a colorful and meaningful sport.”

“Developing a streamliner is a process and a multi-year commitment,” Heichelbech adds. “Last year we showed up at Bonneville with a hand built motorcycle that had never been run, and we left with a race bike. Since those inaugural teething runs last summer, we’ve continued development work on the entire motorcycle, including engine development and dyno testing and tuning. We’re excited to see what this year brings.”

As are we all, Mr. Heichelbech—as are we all!