The Windcheetah has had a long and illustrious competition career, and many of the developments seen on production Windcheetahs started life as performance modifications on racing Windcheetahs.
Mike Burrows was extremely successful on his own Windcheetah, securing the European HPV Championship on two occasions with his highly modified race machine. The remarkable thing about the Windcheetahs racing success is that the race machines are by and large production based machines that can still be ridden on the road. The majority of racing HPVs are specially designed one-offs with very few concessions to creature comforts.
Andy Wilkinson and his Lands End to John O`Groats record attempt.
To prove how versatile even a ' full race' Windcheetah could be we decided to make an attempt on one of the ultimate road records..The Lands End to John O`Groat's record. This involves riding between the Southern and Northern extremes of the British Isles in the shortest possible time. The route we chose started on the craggy tip of lands End in Cornwall and snaked up through England and the Scottish border country culminating, 861 miles later, at the John O`Groat's hotel in the far north of Scotland.
The event was run to guidelines provided by the UK Road Records Association [R.R.A.] and involved a number of incognito timekeepers positioned at various points along the route. No pacing was allowed nor was any vehicle slipstreaming permitted. Because the event is run on public roads and has an incredibly diverse terrain, from the flat expanse of Cheshire to the Scottish highlands, we felt that it would provide a true `real world` test of the Windcheetahs capabilities. Andy would have to cope with traffic lights, juggernauts, careless drivers, adverse weather conditions, in fact just the sort of stuff the rest of us put up with on the roads! At some stage I will document Andy's remarkable achievement in the detail it deserves, suffice to say that he set a new record, and one, which we believe, will stand for many, many years. Below are a few interesting facts and figures about the record attempt;
We had a rear axle fail near Bristol, early on in the ride. This delayed us by over 1 hour whilst we fitted a replacement. If we hadn't had this breakdown I feel certain Andy would have put in a sub 40-hour time for the End to End. The failure was caused by an unauthorized change to our axle design by an engineering company contracted to produce some special lightweight components. The components were delivered only a couple of days before the start and we didn't have an opportunity to reject them. We were unsure about the design change but felt we had no option but to run with it. The Windcheetah was fully faired which adds about 9lbs to the all-up weight. Our goal was to reduce chassis weight by an equivalent amount so Andy would have an easier time in the mountains. We managed to create a machine that actually weighed less than a standard Windcheetah! After the ride Andy had the opinion that it would be possible to achieve a time of 36 hours if the right weather conditions prevailed.
Feeding was a major logistical problem, rider consumption was an amazing 81 litres of fluid in 41 hours. This huge fluid intake also meant a huge output... We rigged up a special condom connected to a metre-long tube to provide relief for Andy without having to stop. The tube exited the Windcheetah at the rear of the fairing.
Andy had two scheduled stops for a massage and a shower; he slept for approx. twenty mins during 41 hours of intense effort.
On his way to break the record Andy broke a number of other records, these records are all the more remarkable when one considers that he was supposed to be conserving energy for the ordeals that lay ahead. Here are some of the statistics;
First 100 miles 4 hours 4 minutes*
12 hours - 295 miles
24 hours - 530 miles
*the first 100 miles included long uphill stretches over Exmoor and Bodmin Moor. Taking this into account Andys speed over the first few hours is quite incredible.
Logistics; The support crew had over 20 people working round the clock to keep Andy fed, watered and on time. The feeding team had to make certain that Andy had a litre of fluid at approx. half-hour intervals. Andy kept two bottles in the Windcheetah and the crew would position themselves at strategic slowing down points such as junctions and steep hills. As Andy approached, often at high speed, he would jettison a used bottle and the feeder would start sprinting flat out, as Andy overtook him the feeder would hand a fresh bottle through the Windcheetahs side window. The old bottle had to be retrieved and then a mad dash to overtake Andy and find a suitable position on the road for the next drop. Because of the dedication of the individuals involved this operation ran like clockwork for 40 hours without a hitch.
Technical specification of the End to End Windcheetah.
Tubing; The main tube is 6000 series aluminium, turned down to reduce wall thickness in low stress areas. The secondary tubes are a special Metal Matrix composite produced specially for us by Magnesium Elektron Ltd.
Castings; Three sets of magnesium castings were produced, one for the `A` machine, one for the `B`[spare] machine and a third set for back-up. This third set was eventually built into a special Windcheetah that we built for Mike Burrows and is in regular use by him. The `B` machine was quite unusual in that it had a sliding front boom. We built this first and Andy did about 6,000 miles of training on it. The boom was fitted so that we could get the length absolutely perfect for Andy. Once we arrived at the optimum length we built the second machine trimmed exactly to Andy's size without an ounce of extra metal.
Rear Wheel; Lightweight 700c, Continental Grand prix tyre with latex tube.
Front Wheel; IRC Rims with standard 70mm Sturmey Archer hub brakes IRC tyres
Rear Cassette.`Goldtec` Titanium sprockets 11 - 24t
Chainset 58-44-32 Specially adapted T.A. cranks with special rings produced by Chris Bell
Lightweight Shell, designed by Mike Burrows and made from Carbon Kevlar and Carbon/ Aluminium honeycomb laminate.
Fasteners, all nuts, bolts etc are Titanium or Aluminium
Aero Wheel covers made from microlight wing fabric.
“He who brakes…loses!”
As well as our more conventional record-breaking activities we do occasionally stray outside our acknowledged area of pedal powered expertise and mix it with the big car manufacturers…racing soapboxes!
The acknowledged pinnacle of UK soapbox competition takes place each year at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The Festival is a huge event attracting over 150,000 visitors each year and is a showcase for all the major motor manufacturers to show off their performance vehicles. The event is based in the grounds of Goodwood House, home to Lord March and takes the form of a speed hill climb up through the grounds of the stately home. For the past four years the event has featured a soapbox derby, attracting entries from the likes of Ford, Honda, Bentley, Prodrive Porsche et al. Plus a little known cycle manufacturer by the name of AVD.
We were latecomer’s to the competition securing our entry in year two of the event. As rookies we were seen as also-rans and not expected to even feature in the results. The circuit is a challenging downhill blind and is famous for a 90 degree bend at the fastest part of the circuit which needs to be taken flat out [60mph+] The car manufacturers bring in 'ringers' to drive their devices and many famous names from the field of motor sport have plunged down the famous hill using only gravity as a propellant.
Things didn’t quite go to corporate plan for the major car companies in the first year we took part because we won the event outright. Unfortunately we never repeated the performance at Goodwood and had to make do with a third and a fourth place in subsequent years. Not bad when you consider the box is made out of reject Windcheetah components and some off cuts of carbon fibre, and that certain car manufacturers (who shall remain nameless), spent an alleged £30,000 developing their devices.
We have now retired from the cut and thrust of gravity racing, but not before we set the fastest time down the Goodwood hill this year…. unfortunately this heroic effort occurred in practice and not in the race. We do have the consolation of setting the fastest ever time down the fearsome Prescott Hill in Gloucestershire at an event held there last year, home of the Bugatti owners club. This white-knuckle achievement is not one I would ever care to repeat. Plunging down a very steep hill between large trees and resilient looking Armco barriers is not very sensible for those wanting to reach retirement. What has all this got to do with Windcheetahs? Absolutely nothing but most of our customers seem to enjoy seeing us give the car companies a hard time so I thought I’d include it on the website.
Bob receiving prize from Gordon Murray Chief Designer at McLaren