This project and the bike started off as project "Maximum Impulse", however, this changed when Gillette became the title sponsor. A World Land Speed Record streamlined motorcycle designed and built as a pure rocket propelled vehicle, capable of carrying three hydrogen peroxide hybrid rockets and incorporating many innovations, the Gillette Mach 3 Challenger set an outright British Land speed record at 216.55mph using a single rocket and just one year later in 1999 on the greater expanse of the Bonneville Salt Flats Richard became the fastest ever on two wheels at an average speed of 332.877mph with a peak speed of 365mph still using just two of the three available rockets. With metal wheels and a full compliment of rockets the bike was clearly capable of its design performance -
For the full story of our attempt at the world record the BBC produced a 50 minute TV documentary as part of their "The Mission" series, titled "Fastest Man on Two Wheels" which has been shown on Sky, Discovery & other TV media several times, and, of course, on the BBC.
Here's a brief run down of the project: The goal was to design, build and demonstrate the world’s fastest two wheeler using hybrid rocket propulsion. Richard jointly designed the bike with good friend Andy Scott. Andy took the lead on certain aspects of the design including wheels, suspension, data logging, etc, whilst Richard took care of all propulsion, cockpit, bodywork, and so on. The design was a true joint effort with some additional input from others. Richard then built the bike including all machining, welding, fabrication etc and by working very long hours construction was complete in just 18 months.
Following various testing including static engine and full size wind tunnel tests, which confirmed all functions were operating as designed, they headed off to Pendine sands in Wales for the first powered runs. Everything performed flawlessly except the rider, they soon realised they had grossly underestimated the steep learning curve associated with riding a streamlined two wheeler.
So they built a "Trainer bike", this amounted to a crude but functional piston powered version which Richard could spend hours riding up & down an air strip until it became almost like "Riding a bike", in recognition of Andy Scott's input it was nicknamed "Muttley's Liner".
Following the trip to Pendine a group of regular reliable helpers began to follow, this was the start of what became a team effort.
With this newly acquired team and skill to ride they headed first for the beach and then the air strips for some more powered runs in the real thing. From that point on the biggest battle was with the weather. They needed exceptionally calm wind conditions, not often found on a British air field and rarer still at Pendine sands, but they waited, and testing continued virtually without fault with small but continuous increases in speed, until on 15th October 1998 at Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire the British record was in the bag! During this period Gillette had joined the list of sponsors as "Title Sponsor" so with the mass of media interest generated around the British record further sponsorship from Gillette was secured along with almost all the sponsors for an attempt on the American held World record.
The team arrived at the Bonneville Salt Flats to be greeted by a flood at the access point, however, fortunately some reasonable salt had been found. The team shared the salt for the first week with American Denis Manning who holds a superb event called the 'BUB Meet' every year for two wheelers to compete for various class and outright records. With surface conditions pretty poor the solid aluminium wheels were breaking through the soft surface, causing "tram-
Richard made seven powered runs during the two weeks on the salt, with some technical and some weather related difficulties, but ultimately it was a combination of a time-
Having returned from Bonneville with time to reflect Richard was very pleased with the achievements. On the salt flats for the first time on a wet, soft surface they had "The Worlds fastest one way run " ever recorded by the FIM. One has to remember very few projects of this nature even get off the drawing board, even fewer ever get built and almost none ever get a crack at a world record. They had achieved almost all Richard set out to do. Richard said "The ultimate satisfaction comes from the engineering of these projects, we made a total of 21 powered runs throughout the project, all exactly on target as planned and without taking unnecessary risks. We had successfully demonstrated the worlds fastest two wheeler, kept to our deadlines and all on a total budget of no more than the cost of a “supercar".
Some noteable achievements resulting from this project include:
Watch Richard and the Gillette Mach 3 Challenger
on the Discovery Channel’s documentary, Big, Big Bikes here:
The Boost Palouste motorcycle was the first manned application for Richard’s propulsive engines and led to a land speed record attempt motorcycle. Built as a research and development motorcycle to try out the concept of using a turbine as a sustaining jet motor with rocket boosters. Richard converted a Rolls Royce Palouste turbine turbo compressor into a unique turbojet by feeding the compressor bleed into a separate "superburner". This in addition to the main jet exhaust yielded fairly respectable performance. Initially boosted with Richard’s own solid fuel rockets he then progressed to hydrogen peroxide hybrid rockets, the design for these hybrids was proved on this motorcycle before use in the next project.
The Boost Palouste did suffer from a unique handling problem, the substantial rotor mass in a Palouste engine has the potential to yield hundreds of pounds of gyroscopic precession. The bike had a solid rear end and fairly soft front forks, even on good air strips this caused a small but rapid pitching moment, this pitching in turn caused significant turning forces generated by this bloody great gyro. This would distort the frame which finally resulted in a guaranteed "tank slapper", usually as Richard approached 200mph! In its final configuration the bike was actually capable of potentially higher speeds but Richard said "not with me riding it". However, after numerous trials and tweaks a 200mph peak was achieved with an official ACU record at 184mph for the flying 1/4 mile average, which back in 1996 was pretty respectable.
Throughout the Boost Palouste project much skill and knowledge was gained which proved invaluable throughout the following 'Maximum Impulse' project. With considerable help from previous team member Malcolm Pittwood we had secured approval from the ACU/FIM for thrust powered two wheelers, before our effort this class was simply not recognised.
Richard is the only Briton ever to design & build both the vehicle and the engines and then make an attempt at a world speed record.
Richard was the first and to date the only man to make an official FIM world record attempt using thrust power on two wheels.
Richard is the fastest Briton ever on two wheels.
The Gillette Mach 3 Challenger was the world’s fastest two wheeler during the 20th Century.
The Gillette Mach 3 Challenger streamliner is now on display at the National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull, Birmingham, where the Boost Palouste can also be seen.
Richard spent a couple of years developing a number of solid fuel rocket motors with differing thrust levels & burn times. Following many successful static motor tests he then built a series of 3 radio controlled model cars named Awesome Express -
At twelve feet in length (3.6 meters) Awesome Express III was ultimately powered by a purpose built LOX -
For a great overview of all our previous projects click on these links:-
World Two Wheeled Land Speed Record Challenger