In case you’ve been wondering what 2004 and 2007 World Superbike champion James Toseland has been up to these days, here’s your answer. Besides recording an album with his band Crash and pursuing a music career, Toseland is attempting to use two wheels to put his name in the record books one more time. Only this time, as he tries to break the 400 mph mark and set a new motorcycle land speed record.
The streamliner Toseland will pilot, the 52 Express, is powered by a Rolls Royce Gem turbine engine usually used to power helicopters. It makes upwards of 1000 hp and drives the rear wheel via belt drive. Alex Macfadzean, a former IOM TT sidecar racer and former land speed record holder (he was the first man in the UK to reach 200 mph on two wheels), is the man behind this project. Together with partner Robin Richardson and a team from the University of Derby, the crew hope to surpass the current record of 376.363 mph held by American Rocky Robinson.
While technically a motorcycle by virtue of only having two wheels, this will be unlike anything Toseland has ever piloted before. He will be sitting almost flat inside the tub, holding a steering wheel rather than clip-ons, and there won’t be any gears to shift as it’s an automatic gearbox.
In the event of a failure, the front and rear sections, carrying the engine and fuel tank, will break off from the main capsule, itself fitted with a fire suppression system, to give Toseland the highest chance at surviving a high-speed crash.
To make sure the former champ is comfortable with the controls, a duplicate streamliner has also been built, but is powered by a BMW K1100 engine instead of the turbine. Other than the BMW engine, the suspension, including the center hub steering mechanism, controls, electronics and everything else is the same.
Toseland and the entire crew are approaching this project with cautious optimism. They believe the machinery is capable of setting a new record, but there are still a number of factors that can get in the way, just like any other race.
The team still aren’t sure where they will attempt the run. The options are between the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and South Africa’s , where another team is planning to go for overall land speed record of 763.035 mph in the four-wheel, jet and rocket-powered Bloodhound SSC later this year.
Check out the photo gallery below for more pictures of the streamliner. And to keep track of the team’s progress, check out the 52 Express Facebook page.