Man and machine in perfect harmony, pushing the boundaries of speed. For centuries people have been living out this dream and a new highlight is just around the corner: in a matter of days, British motorcycle manufacturer Triumph will prepare to launch its assault on the land speed record for motorcycles with the Castrol Rocket.
Coventry-based Triumph held the record between 1955 and 1970, before the iconic English brand temporarily shelved its record-breaking activities. Suzuki currently holds the world record of 376.363 miles per hour (605.697km/h).
The Castrol Rocket now sees Castrol and Triumph combine forces in a spectacular attempt to restore their legacy of record-breaking, which stretches back decades. Not only do they have their sights set on breaking the current world record in the days ahead, but also penetrating the elusive 400mph barrier (643.737km/h).
The venue for this record attempt is the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US state of Utah. It is here that the Castrol Rocket project team, including aerodynamics expert Matt Markstaller, engine manufacturer Bob Carpenter and rider Jason DiSalvo, will have two opportunities to set a new world record: from 23rd to 28th August at the Bonneville International Motorcycle Speed Trials and from 12th to 18th September at the Mike Cook Bonneville Shootout.
The Salt Flats in the northwest of Utah are more than 100km², although the stretch used for the record attempts is nothing more than a straight designated by a few flags and cones. For a record to be officially recognised, it is necessary to complete one run of a pre-defined distance in one direction and then a so-called return run in the opposite direction. The average of these two runs is then taken to determine whether or not the record attempt has been successful.
The Castrol Rocket is charged with setting the new world record for Castrol and Triumph. The figures behind the hand-built, streamlined specimen, which was constructed in 2013, make impressive reading: two 3-cylinder Triumph Rocket III turbo engines located behind the rider provide the rear wheel with over 1,000hp. The two in-line engines each have a displacement of 1,485cc. Maximum performance is achieved at an engine speed of 9,000rpm.
Why has engine manufacturer Carpenter opted for two engines? “It just made sense. One huge engine would most likely torch the bearings. With the shorter stroke we can have higher RPM’s with less stress on the motors,” Carpenter explains.
Another aspect that convinced the Castrol Rocket’s engine guru to opt for the two-engine variant was the weight factor. “The added weight of an additional engine adds some traction which is hard to come by on the salt,” said Carpenter. Jason DiSalvo, who will ride the two-wheel rocket, knows: “The salt surface has little traction. The wind pushes against you from every side.”
Shaped like a plane without wings, the carbon Kevlar body – the so-called monocoque – of the Castrol Rocket is 7.77 metres long, 61 centimetres wide and 91 centimetres high. The swing arm is made of aluminium. Öhlins shock absorbers combine with Goodyear’s specially developed “Land Speed Special” tyres to ensure the bike handles perfectly on the Salt Flats. The fuel is methanol – alcohol, basically. The engine oil used is fully-synthetic Castrol Power1 4T 10W40. Carbon brake discs and two parachutes are employed to slow the rocket on two wheels down.
Rider Jason DiSalvo, a professional motorcycle racer from Stafford in the US state of New York, has made wildcard appearances in the 125cc, 250cc and Moto2 World Championships over the course of his career. He contested his only Moto2 race in Indianapolis in 2010, claiming a top-ten finish at the first attempt.
DiSalvo’s main job is the AMA Pro Road Racing series, in which he rides a Triumph Daytona. However, the Bonneville Salt Flats are far from uncharted waters for the 30-year-old. In 2012 he set a national speed record there. “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,” says DiSalvo, describing the fascination that takes hold of everyone involved in Bonneville time and time again.