Road legal turbine motorcycle breaks three world records

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Madmax streetfighter turbine motorcycle on a record breaking attempt

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Imagine a Rolls Royce helicopter turbine that produces a scorching 542 hp and over 450 lb-ft of torque strapped to a bare naked motorcycle, a streetfighter. This is what Madmax Race Team brought to Elvington, UK for the Straightliners Speed Record event, leaving with three new official world records. And the best part is that it’s completely road legal – headlights, horn, indicators and all.

Remember the Y2K turbine motorcycle that Marine Turbine Technologies (MTT) had built back in 1998? In its heyday this motorcycle created a lot of buzz due to its unique character and insane performance, ending up on every motorcycle magazine’s cover and, of course, in Jay Leno’s garage. The last one was built in 2005, before MTT turned its focus to designing turbine-powered fracking pumps for the new booming branch of the oil industry and losing actual interest for the motorcycle that generated so much publicity for its creators.

It was around that time that Maxicorp founder, Zef Eisenberg, visited MTT’s headquarters in Louisiana to discuss the continuation of the turbine motorcycle project. After an agreement was met, Maxicorp’s Autosport Division would take over the development of the next turbine bike generation. The last Y2K motorcycle was shipped to the UK, where it was taken apart to begin the development process.

During the following years, the project evolved into building a completely new prototype as the original design was deemed too outdated. Starting with the power source, the discontinued Rolls Royce 250-C18 turbine from the original Y2K had to be replaced with the C18’s successor, the 250-C20B. This meant a giant leap from 240 hp (179 kW) to more than 400 hp (298 kW) in standard form, which was a lot more than the Y2K’s gear could handle.

The frame had to be redesigned and strengthened. As the motorcycle is not thrust powered but wheel driven, the gearbox is apparently a vital part and the Toyota two-speed gearbox used in the Y2K had by now become totally obsolete. The development team designed and fabricated a brand new single speed gearbox with a multi plate carbon dry clutch.

Most spindles and flywheels, originally made from aluminum alloy, were replaced with stronger and lighter one-off titanium parts, and the original Harley-Davidson wheels gave way to BST carbon fiber rims. For the front suspension system the weapon of choice was a racing superbike pair of inverted Marzocchi 50 mm forks, allowing for two 320 mm discs with six-pot ISR brake calipers. The engine management was assigned to a Motec ECU using custom software, developed in house with data logging capabilities and several built-in safety features.

The list of changes and improvements made to the motorcycle became so long that in the end only some parts of the frame remain as proof that the starting point once was the Y2K turbine motorcycle – and even these are soon to be replaced. The cost of this project was estimated at around £200,000 (US$308,000) last year and since then it continues to evolve.

Although originally the motorcycle was designed with aerodynamic carbon fairings, the team ultimately decided to go for a naked, streetfighter look, allowing for the turbine and all the technology used to be on full display. As soon as it was completed, Eisenberg created the Madmax Race Team and decided to take his creation for a try at breaking some speed records.

In May 2014 at the Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire, UK, the fully-faired race bike, sponsored by Tag Heuer, broke the British Land speed record with a one way speed of 214 mph (344.4 km/h). In August 2014 in streetfighter form it set a new world record of 224.9 mph (361.9 km/h) over a mile from a standing start, which was ratified by the Auto-Cycle Union (ACU), the Speed Record Club and the Timing Association.

The plan for this year was to return to Elvington for some more record breaking. This posed several problems that the team had to overcome. First of all they needed more power. The streetfighter bike has a drag coefficient of around 0.9 – as opposed to the much sleeker 0.35 of the fully-faired race bike. After some careful calculations, they realized that in order to increase the top speed from 224.9 mph to the target of 231.7 (372.8 km/h), they had to come up with an additional 100 hp (75 kW)!

This was achieved with a lot of hard work and a special addition to the engine fuel system: a water/methanol injection system. Using a mix of 30 percent methanol and 70 percent water, a special order pump injects 1.4 liters (0.36 US gal) into the turbine inlet every 10 seconds at a pressure exceeding 200 psi. Holding enough for just 20 seconds, the team estimated this additional boost should cut it.

The Madmax turbine streetfighter that turned up at Elvington was by now producing an estimated 542 peak horsepower (404 kW), with a torque of at least 450 lb-ft (610 Nm) at maximum rpm. These performance figures are not 100 percent accurate because the motorcycle proved to be too brutal for any dyno to handle. The latest attempt was on May 13, on a Dynojet 250 equipped with an Eddy Brake system. The bike was strapped down with 150 kg (331 lb) of force on each side in a bid to achieve maximum traction for the 240/40-18 rear wheel.

Despite every measure taken, at around 80 percent throttle the rear wheel started to spin on the dyno’s 750 kg (1,653 lb) grooved steel roller. That would be the inescapable result of too much torque. When the bike’s ECU calculated a perceived acceleration from 190 to 240 mph (306 to 386 km/h) in just one second at the rear wheel, it shut down the turbine as it was designed to do as a safety precaution. Mind you, this happened before using the water/methanol boost!

As of May 17, Madmax’s turbine streetfighter, at the hands of Zef Eisenberg, is the proud holder of three world records and one British national record:

  • World’s fastest Turbine Motorcycle – 1 mile (one way): 233.7 mph (376.1 km/h)
  • World’s fastest Streetfighter – 1 mile (one way): 231.6 mph (372.7 km/h)
  • World's fastest flying quarter mile for Turbine Motorcycle: 3.91 sec
  • Britain’s fastest Naked Motorcycle (Official ACU two way average): 225.6 mph (363.1 km/h)

All these were achieved in road legal trim, as the motorcycle is registered for road use. The bike competed at the Elvington event using normal diesel fuel and road legal DOT tires. In fact, Eisenberg has ridden it to almost every event it has attended, reaching as far as the Helitech 2014 show in Amsterdam, Holland. That’d be 1,200 miles (1,930 km) from the team’s base in Guernsey, UK, travelling and handling road bends smoothly while doing 7.2 mpg (32.9 l/100 km) on pump diesel.

The C20B turbine is equipped with a titanium retainer ring ensuring that the turbine blades will not become lethal projectiles in the case of a failure. There is also a system that prevents flames from coming out of the exhaust pipes – Jay Leno had admitted in an old interview that, while idling at a red light on his Y2K bike, he could smell the bumper of a car behind him melting from his exhaust’s heat, before he took off in a hurry.

There is no commercial future for this turbine motorcycle, as Maxicorp believes that it’s simply too powerful for most riders. Yet, the company’s website does leave a small window of opportunity declaring that, “we may be tempted to build one for those that can demonstrate they have sufficient money and expertise in handling such a bike for special occasions or ideally for those that want to add possibly the most extreme bike ever made to their current collection of automotive exotica”. Have you seen this Mr. Leno?

Enjoy the Madmax turbine bike in its first test runs and on the road trip to Amsterdam in the following videos.

View gallery - 16 images

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