It takes a certain kind of person to take on Land Speed Record (LSR) racing. When you’re doing 300 mph (482 km/h), or more, things can go real wrong, real fast. Now imagine doing that on a motorcycle. Now imagine going over 400 mph (644 km/h) and you can see just how daunting, if not down right crazy, the task is.
Richard Brown is a man who finds the idea of going that fast to be more of a challenge than a terrifying likelihood of fiery failure. The British engineer is not a new-comer to the LSR game. In 1999 he rode his rocket powered Gillette Mach 3 Challenger motorcycle to an officially timed one way speed of 332.887 mph (535.729 km/h) on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Sadly, Brown’s speed attempt was not officially recognized, since he only ran the bike one way. The rules stipulate that any speed record attempt must be made in both directions, to account for variations in wind speed.
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It’s also worth noting that what Mr. Brown and his fellow motorcycle speed seekers are riding are "motorcycles" insofar as they have two wheels. The modern LSR bike has more in common with a Sidewinder air-to-air missile than it does with a Harley-Davidson. The vehicles are fully enclosed in fairings that make them look like drop tanks, and if you want to turn out the really big numbers, a rider has to drop the internal combustion engine driving the rear wheel and opt for more exotic means of propulsion.
Unlike the rockets used in Richard Brown’s 1999 attempt, this time the design utilizes a turboshaft helicopter engine converted to a pure thrust turbojet, complete with an afterburner. Essentially what he has designed and built is analogous to an engineless Harley with an enormous hair drier attached to the rear end.
Richard Brown is a trained engineer, and he figures that if he has his sums right, by the time he’s on the salt his two-wheeled streamliner, dubbed Jet Reaction, will be capable of hitting 400+ miles an hour. That’s 586 feet every second or the length of a soccer pitch in little more than the blink of an eye.
Brown is advancing into new territory here for sure. No one has ever gone 400 mph on a bike before, but others have gotten close. The Castrol Rocket was a conventionally-powered streamliner built in 2013. We covered its development, but poor salt conditions resulted in no attempts in 2014 as planned. Denis Manning’s BUB 7 Streamliner hit a two-way average speed of over 350 mph (563 km/h) and the current World Two Wheeled Land Speed Record of 376.373 mph (605.713 km/h) is held by an American, Rocky Robinson since 2010.
The fact that an American holds the record no doubt rankles Richard Brown, since he points out that "You need to go back in the history books to 1937 to find the last British holder of the motorcycle record, Eric Fernihough riding a streamlined Brough Superior motorcycle to a speed of 169 mph [272 km/h]."
Unlike that streamlined Brough Superior, the Jet Reaction will be using the earlier-mentioned gas turbine engine. A turbine engine offers more throttle response than going with pure rockets, and a turbine is also quicker to turn around at the far end of the track for the required return run.
Mr. Brown represents the Jet Reaction project partly as "unfinished business" and goes on to say that "It's also an opportunity to demonstrate how a small team of talented individuals without vast financial support can produce a world-class vehicle."
The team is now in the final stages of testing in the UK before shipping the bike to the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, where the assault on the official world record will take place. Part of this testing means that Jet Reaction will run with three wheels as shown in the pictures. Running these "training wheels" allows the team to concentrate on data acquisition and power plant run-in without having to worry about vehicle stability and low speed accidents.
Before taking off for Utah in September, Richard Brown hopes to run the Jet Reaction on the famous Pendine Sands, Wales in May. If conditions permit, he looks forward to a number of UK speed records being challenged if not broken outright.
Source: Jet ReactionView gallery - 12 images