Motorcycle land-speed record
The motorcycle land speed record is the fastest speed achieved by a motorcycle on land. It is standardized as the speed over a course of fixed length, averaged over two runs in opposite directions. These are special or modified motorcycles, distinct from the fastest production motorcycles.
The first generally recognized motorcycle speed records were set unofficially by Glenn Curtiss, using aircraft engines of his own manufacture, first in 1903, when he achieved 64 mph (103 km/h) at Yonkers, New York using a V2, and then on January 24, 1907 on Ormond Beach, Florida, when he achieved 136.27 mph (219.31 km/h) using a V8 housed in a spindly tube chassis with direct shaft drive to the rear wheel. An attempted 'return run' was foiled when his drive shaft came loose at speed, yet he was able to wrestle the machine to a stop without injury. Curtiss' V8 motorcycle is currently in the Transportation collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
The 1907 record made Curtiss the fastest person on earth in any vehicle on land or air (the automobile record stood at 127.66 mph (205.45 km/h) (steam powered), the rail record stood at 131 mph (211 km/h) (electric powered), and in the air, where weight considerations made the internal combustion engine dominant, the air speed record was still held by the Wright Brothers, at a mere 37.85 mph (60.91 km/h)).
The first officially sanctioned Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) record was set in 1920, when Gene Walker rode an Indian on Daytona Beach at 104.12 mph (167.56 km/h). The first FIM-sanctioned record to exceed Curtiss' 1907 speed did not occur until 1930, at Arpajon, France, when a special OEC chassis with supercharged 1,000cc v-twin JAP engine averaged 137 mph (220 km/h) over the required two-way runs. In the 1930s, an international battle between the BMWs, ridden by Ernst Henne, alternated records with various JAP-powered English motorcycles (Zenith, OEC, Brough Superior). BMW set a final record before WWII, in 1937 (173.68 mph (279.51 km/h)), which stood for 11 years.
After the Second World War, the German NSU factory battled English machines (Vincent HRD, Triumph) for top speed honors through the 1960s, when Japanese-engined streamliners appeared, and alternated with Harley Davidson-engined machines through 1990. The last Harley Davidson record of 322.15 mph (518.45 km/h) stood for 16 years, before a Suzuki-powered machine averaged 342.8 mph (551.7 km/h) in 2006. Since then, the BUB team, using a custom-built V4 engine, has alternated with the twin Suzuki engined Ack Attack team. Since late 2010, the Ack Attack team has held the motorcycle land speed record at 376.36 mph (605.69 km/h).
The fastest record certified by the FIM is that set in 1964 by the jet-propelled tricycle, Spirit of America. It set three absolute land speed records, the last at 526.277 miles per hour (846.961 km/h). While such records are usually validated by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the FIA only certifies vehicles with at least four wheels, while the FIM certifies two- and three-wheelers. Breedlove never intended Spirit of America to be classified as a motorcycle, despite its tricycle layout, and only approached the FIM after being rejected for record status by the FIA. Spirit of America's FIM-ratified record prompted the FIA to create a new category "thrust-powered" vehicles to its world record listings. Further, most people think of the tricycle Spirit of America, now part of the permanent collection of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, as a "car" and not a motorcycle.
List of records
|Date||Location||Rider||Make||Engine displacement cc (cu in)||Speed||Comments|
|1903||Yonkers, New York, US||Glenn Curtiss||Curtiss V-2||1,000 cc (61 cu in)||64||103||over the mile, first (unofficial) World Speed Record, Hercules V-twin|
|January 24, 1907||Ormond Beach, Florida, US||Glenn Curtiss||Curtiss V-8||4,000 cc (240 cu in)||136.27||219.31||Unofficial record stood over 20 years|
|1920||Daytona Beach, Florida, US||Gene Walker||Indian||994 cc (60.7 cu in)||104.12||165.67|||
|1923||Brooklands UK||Bert le Vack||Temple-Anzani||996 cc (60.8 cu in)||108.41||174.58|||
|1924||Arpajon, France||Bert le Vack||Brough Superior-JAP||867 cc (52.9 cu in)||118.98||191.59|||
|1926||Arpajon, France||Claude F. Temple||OEC-Temple||996 cc (60.8 cu in)||121.3||195.33|||
|1928||Arpajon, France||Owen M. Baldwin||Zenith-JAP||996 cc (60.8 cu in)||124.55||200.56|||
|1929||Arpajon, France||Bert Le Vack||Brough-Superior||995 cc (60.7 cu in)||126.75||207.33|||
|1930||Arpajon, France||Joseph S. Wright||OEC Temple JAP||994 cc (60.7 cu in)||137.23||220.99|| First official record to exceed Curtiss' pioneering effort, and the first successful use of a supercharger for a World Record|
|1930||Ingolstadt, Germany||Ernst Jakob Henne||BMW WR 750||735 cc (44.9 cu in)||137.58||221.54|||
|1930||Cork, Ireland||Joseph S. Wright||Zenith JAP||995 cc (60.7 cu in)||150.65||242.59|||
|1932||Tát, Hungary||Ernst Jakob Henne||BMW||736 cc (44.9 cu in)||151.77||244.40|||
|1934||Gyon, Hungary||Ernst Jakob Henne||BMW||736 cc (44.9 cu in)||152.81||246.069|
|1935||A3 autobahn (Frankfurt-München route), Germany||Ernst Jakob Henne||BMW||736 cc (44.9 cu in)||159.01||256.046|| First record over 250 km/h (160 mph)|
|1936||A3, Germany||Ernst Jakob Henne||BMW Type 255||493 cc (30.1 cu in)||168.92||272.006|||
|1937||Gyon, Hungary||Eric Fernihough||Brough Superior-JAP||995 cc (60.7 cu in)||169.68||273.244|| JAP supercharged
Fernihough was killed in a 1938 attempt
|1937||Autostrada A4 (Italy) (Brescia-Bergamo route)||Piero Taruffi||Gilera||492 cc (30.0 cu in)||170.27||274.181||Supercharged four-cylinder. Taruffi famous as Grand Prix driver.|
|1937||A3, Germany||Ernst Jakob Henne||BMW||495 cc (30.2 cu in)||173.68||279.503|| Last pre-WWII record|
|1951||A9 autobahn (Ingolstadt-München route), Germany||Wilhelm Herz||NSU Delphin I streamliner||499 cc (30.5 cu in)||180.29||290.322|| First post-WWII record|
|1955||Christchurch, New Zealand||Russell Wright||Vincent-HRD||998 cc (60.9 cu in)||184.83||297.640|||
|1956||Bonneville Speedway, US||John Allen||Triumph||649 cc (39.6 cu in)||193.730||311.778||[broken citation]|
|1956||Bonneville, US||Wilhelm Herz||NSU Delphin III streamliner||499 cc (30.5 cu in)||211.4||338.092|| First record over 200 mph (320 km/h)|
|1956||Bonneville, US||Johnny Allen||Triumph Tiger T110||649 cc (39.6 cu in)||214.5||345.188||Unratified by FIM|
|1962||Bonneville, US||William A. Johnson||Triumph||667 cc (40.7 cu in)||224.57||361.41|||
|1966||Bonneville, US||Robert Leppan||Triumph Special Gyronaut X-1||1,298 cc (79.2 cu in)||245.667||395.36||Triumph Special twin-engined|
|1970||Bonneville, US||Don Vesco||Yamaha "Big Red" streamliner||700 cc (43 cu in)||251.66||405.25|| Two-stroke twin-engined
First record over 250 mph (402 km/h)
|1970||Bonneville, US||Cal Rayborn||Harley-Davidson||1,480 cc (90 cu in)||254.84||410.37|| single nitro-fueled Sportster engine nicknamed 'Godzilla' built by Warner Riley.|
|1975||Bonneville, US||Don Vesco||Yamaha "Silver Bird" streamliner||1,480 cc (90 cu in)||302.92||487.515|| First record over 300 mph (483 km/h)|
|1978[broken citation]||Bonneville, US||Don Vesco||Lightning Bolt streamliner||2,030 cc (124 cu in)||318.598||509.757||Turbocharged twin Kawasaki Kz1000 engines[broken citation]
First record over 500 km/h (311 mph)
|1990[broken citation]||Bonneville, US||Dave Campos||Ruxton Harley-Davidson||3,000 cc (180 cu in)||322.150||518.450||twin-engined[broken citation]
Longest held official record, 16 years (see Curtiss' 20 year unofficial record)
|3 September 2006||Bonneville, US||Rocky Robinson||Top Oil-Ack Attack streamliner||2,600 cc (160 cu in)||342.797||551.678||Twin Suzuki engines[broken citation]|
|5 September 2006[broken citation]||Bonneville, US||Chris Carr||BUB Seven streamliner||2,997 cc (182.9 cu in)||350.884[broken citation]||564.693[broken citation]||BUB/Sierra Design V4|
|26 September 2008||Bonneville, US||Rocky Robinson||Top Oil-Ack Attack streamliner||2,600 cc (160 cu in)||360.913||580.833||Twin Suzuki engines|
|24 September 2009||Bonneville, US||Chris Carr||BUB Seven streamliner||2,997 cc (182.9 cu in)||367.382||591.244||BUB/Sierra Design V4|
|25 September 2010||Bonneville, US||Rocky Robinson||Top Oil-Ack Attack streamliner||2,600 cc (160 cu in)||376.363||605.697||Twin Suzuki engines
First record over 600 km/h (373 mph)
- Harvey (2005) p. 253
- Bonneville Salt Flats by "LandSpeed" Louise Ann Noeth, MBI Publishing
- House (2003) p. 31-32
- House (2003) p. 41
- de Cet (2002) p. 116
- Setright (1979) p. 238
- Bayley, Joseph (1968), The Vintage Years at Brooklands, London, England: Goose and Sons Publishers Ltd., ISBN 0900404000
- Barnes, F.W. (25 Feb 1931), "Letters to the Editor", Motorcycling
- Walker (1999) p. 16
- Walker (2001) p. 188. "Then in 1936, BMW technicians decided to decrease the engine's displacement from 736 to 493. This might have seemed a backwards move, but there was a sound basis for this technical change. [...] The engine was a 493 cc double-overhead-cam with a bore and stroke of 66 x 72 mm, a Zoller supercharger mounted on the front of the crankshaft [...] This supercharging technology had been under development since 1929, when a production R63 model had been fitted with a positive displacement blower..."
- Setright (1979) p. 238 lists this as 735 cc, not 736 cc.
- Tragatsch, caption p. 304, credits this run as 256.06 with a supercharged 746 cc, while contradicting this on the same page in a table listing the displacement for the '32-'35 BMWs as 735 cc, and as 495 cc in 1936, rather than 493 cc.
- Setright (1979) p. 238 has this as 495 cc.
- Tragatsch (1984) p. 304
- Hennekam (2005) p. 57
- Tragatsch (1984), p.305.
- Clayton, Graham, The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. p. 46. Motorcycle Mojo Magazine
- [broken citation] World Record attempts: Historic land speed record broken in Bonneville, FIM, 2006, retrieved 2008-10-19[dead link]
- Motorcycle.com Staff (2008)
- Harley (2009)
- New FIM World Record - Bonneville Raceway, Utah (USA), FIM, October 4, 2010
- de Cet, Mirco (2002), The illustrated directory of motorcycles, MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company, ISBN 978-0-7603-1417-3
- Harley, Bryan (25 September 2009), "BUB Racing's Chris Carr Breaks Speed Record", Motorcycle USA
- Harvey, Steve (2005), It Started with a Steamboat: An American Saga, Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, ISBN 978-1-4208-4943-1
- [broken citation]Hennekam, Charles (December 2005), "World Records Bonneville" (PDF), The FIM Magazine, FIM, p. 57, retrieved 2008-10-19
- House, Kirk W. (2003), Hell-rider to king of the air: Glenn Curtiss's life of innovation, SAE, ISBN 978-0-7680-0802-9
- Motorcycle.com Staff (29 September 2008), New motorcycle land speed record set;Top 1 Ack Attack team reaches 360 mph
- Setright, L.J.K. (1979), The Guinness book of motorcycling facts and feats, Guinness Superlatives, ISBN 978-0-85112-200-7
- "Streamline motorcycle to get 170-mile speed", Popular Science, December 1931: 60
- Tragatsch, Erwin (1984), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Motorcycles (2nd ed.), Feltham, Middlesex, England: Newnes Books/Temple Press, ISBN 0-600-38477-2
- Walker, Mick (1999), Mick Walker's German Racing Motorcycles, Redline Books, ISBN 978-0-9531311-2-9
- Walker, Mick (2001), The Art of the Motorcycle, Guggenheim Museum, ISBN 978-0-8109-6912-4[dead link]