Wednesday, May 9

297 KM/H IN 1955...

As we get to grips with the news that Tom Sykes blasted through the Monza speed trap last weekend at close to 340 km/h on the Kawasaki ZX10R Superbike, perhaps it is time to reflect on a pair of high speed Kiwis.

Back in the swirling mists of time, December 1954 and July 1955 actually, Bob Burns and Russell Wright set a few speed records out the back of Christchurch. The best speed achieved on the Vincent Black Lightning was 185mph (297 km/h). This was with an air-cooled, push-rod operated two valves a cylinder 998cc V-twin running on methanol fitted into a streamlined body.

Not quite as advanced as a 998cc liquid-cooled, double overhead camshaft 16 valve in-line four.

The pairing of Wright and Burns set New Zealand and British records.

In 1978 Christchurch racer Paul McLachlan took his Yamaha TZ750D out onto the public roads to the west of Christchurch and set a New Zealand record of 178 mph then some years later Jon Wright clocked a whisker under 188 mph on a 1000cc V-twin Britten. The latest attempt came on February 5, 2000 when Timaru's John Hepburn upped that to 191 mph (307 km/h) on an undulating country road near Edendale in Southland on a lightly modified Suzuki Hayabusa.

All this makes Wright and Burns' exploits look particularly impressive, since they managed speeds not far short of that 45 years earlier.

The Vincent ran on Avon tyres, and for some Avon advertising footage from the time: