There are many important records that can be achieved with a motorcycle but the most significant from the point of view of technology and the most effective for media coverage are the “fundamental three”: speed, acceleration and durability.
Record Motor Cycles was born to achieve the Record for Speed. Speed records have been continuously challenged ever since engines were first developed. No limit exists for this type of record, indeed, the limit would be the speed of light, but some time must yet pass before this can be reached by a motorbike. This record category is regulated and certified by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), which also determines the classes in which the vehicles are divided and, in our case, the bikes with which we are going to present our challenge. There are Speed Records that are run over a Short Distance consisting of two stages (in the two opposite directions, and within a maximum interval of 2 hours) in a straight path: these are the “Flying Kilometre (or Flying Mile).” There are also speed records on the distance of 10 and 100 kilometres in an hour, and over 12 and 24 hours. Naturally, RMC will attempt the most significant record, the one on the short distance, where ultimate technological excellence today finds expression in a “real” motorcycle. “Motorcycle”, this must be emphasised, because there are three Speed Record categories:
Division A – Non Streamlined, essentially these machines run “naked”: due to evident aerodynamic factors, it is unlikely that their speed can exceed 300 km/h.
Division B – Partially Streamlined i.e. motorbikes with fairing, but with the pilot exposed and wheels visible for at least 180° of their circumference. Essentially, they are motorbikes with fairing, but very similar to those ridden on normal roads: a Suzuki Hayabusa is very similar to a Division B motorbike, this is the division in which the RMC team will compete with our prototypes. The current record for these bikes is 420 km/h, thanks to superior aerodynamics compared to the “naked” class.
Division C – Streamlined: by comparison, these are “missiles” with aerodynamic appendages similar to winglets and the pilot riding completely enclosed within a fairing, often sitting as in a car and not “straddling” the vehicle.
In addition to these subdivisions, there are three other classes which are defined according to propulsion configuration:
Type I: Aspirated internal combustion engines with spark ignition, 50-3000 cc;
Type II: Supercharged internal combustion engines with spark ignition.
Also, the number of engine cylinders is included among the category parameters.
Currently, Record Motor Cycles is engaged in this record category: we want to reach ultimate speeds with a motorcycle built for the record challenge but that still remains a motorbike: however powerful, whatever the aerodynamic and speed performance that our prototypes will achieve, they will always retain the fundamental characteristics that, in our opinion, a motorcycle must have. (for those who want to know more, check out the section “Record Class RMC Prototypes”
The acceleration records are almost always achieved during drag racing events, especially in the US, attracting huge audiences. They are an expression of pure power, an outburst of horsepower throughout a ¼ mile distance (about 400 metres). The machines in the top category, the Top Fuel class, run the “quarter-mile” in less than 6s, exceeding 350 km/h. The Top Fuels can only go straight, driven by a number of supercharged engines capable of burning 15 litres of nitromethane in 400 metres. The technology employed is not very sophisticated. Rather, they “go in heavy” with enormous cylinder capacities, compressors, number of engines (even three units!) and therefore it is extremely unlikely that Top Fuel machines would be produced in road versions: apart from the problem of the bends, (well, in the US roads do tend to be quite straight, but there is a limit to everything) the engines are started with petrol combustion (racing fuel, not unleaded …) then, on reaching a threshold temperature, the spark plugs switch over to Nitromethane combustion, and at least 300 litres are required for a run of 10 km.
The reliability records that in the early days of mass motorbike popularity were well attended, now attract less public attention, but they have left a fascinating legacy: the Endurance Racing category, which has its own World Championship.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the “pure” endurance records had a decisive influence on the sales of a given model: the new limit was determined by the distance covered up to the first critical failure of one of the motorbike’s structural components. The intention was to demonstrate the reliability of materials and design, aspects of primary importance at the time since the motorbike was used purely as a means of transport, more economical than a car. Of course, all honourable respect is due to the exceptional and glorious Endurance riders who have left their mark in the history of motorcycling. With increased machine reliability in general, these types of records have lost much interest and competitors.