Sunday, Mar 05, 2017
From the 1962 Triumph Baltimore sales catalog
About a year ago I wrote about Gary Richards and his Speed Records at Bonneville in the 1960′s.
Still, no one has gone faster than Gary Richards did in 1961 with any 650 Triumph motorcycle without a fairing at Bonneville.
His two way average of 159.542 mph still stands as an AMA certified record to this day.
The fact that no one has been able to beat this record in 56 years is amazing in itself, however when you take into account his bike it is even more impressive.
His naturally aspirated stock rigid frame Pre Unit looked like a street bike, with a peanut tank and stock length fork. His father Rich Richards did the tuning, and they managed a 160.272 mph average over one mile, and a return average of 158.812 mph for an official record of 159.542 mph.
Most people don’t realize that the timing trap at Bonneville is one full mile long, and speeding up or slowing down will affect your average speed, which is then averaged with your return mile speed to reach your qualifying speed.
This method of timing is significantly different than other speed events like the NHRA, which uses a 66 foot long trap at the end of the 1/4 mile track to calculate speed, or even El Mirage Dry Lake which only uses a 132 foot long timing trap at the end of a 1.3 mile track.
Gary Richards currently produces Dixon Cylinder heads, and from 1961 to today is still the Bonneville record holder of the world’s fastest unfaired Triumph 650 of all time.
Photo of Gary in 1962 courtesy of the AMERICAN HOT ROD FOUNDATION
Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016
Every August since 1949 (weather permitting), the Southern California Timing Association has organized the Bonneville National Speed Trials at the famed Salt Flats in Wendover Utah. This event is a week long all out festival of speed for cars, motorcycles, and all sorts of wheeled vehicles. A vast array of race teams attend, from well equipped (and financed) factory sponsored entries to shoestring budget home built machines, and everything in between.
Triumph motorcycles have a long history with the salt, as the most popular and fastest street model was named after the Bonneville salt flats in 1959. The World’s Fastest Motorcycle title was held by Triumph from 1956 to 1970. Since 1951 during SCTA events there have been Triumph twins racing at Speed Week. This August was no different.
Triumph 350, 500, 650, and 750 Pre Unit and Unit twins were raced on Gas, Alcohol, and Nitromethane.
Seven new Land Speed records were set by Six Vintage Triumph motorcycles over the course of the week.
I was tuning an engine I built for a Swiss race Team, who were running a 1955 650 T110 engine in the Vintage 750 gas class. Using a pair of 389 “chopped” monobloc carbs with matchbox remote floats on the original iron head, the top average speed over the measured mile was 126.832 mph. After a few tuning runs a new speed record was established of 123.534 mph for the A-VG 750 class.
Bonneville can be a tough place. Even the best prepared teams often find that something happens that they weren’t ready for. It could be mechanical parts breaking, unexpected wind, traction problems, or a host of other issues all in 100 degree heat with no shade.
It is every gearhead’s dream to find out what top speed potential is in their machine. Sometimes you set records but still don’t truly find out. There is always next year though…
For more information on Bonneville Racing see here
Thursday, Aug 11, 2016
It would be a shame to build a high performance Triumph engine and never see what it is capable of. That is why the shop will be closed during Speed Week to support and tune our Pre Unit race engine at Bonneville for Nik and Patrick. The shop will open again on Saturday the 20th of August. Sorry for the inconvenience but I’m sure all gearheads will understand. Dan
For more information on Speed Week 2016 please see the SCTA website by clicking http://www.scta-bni.org/
Wednesday, Jul 20, 2016
Starting line at El Mirage, Jill Iverson starter, Dan Druff rider, Travis Shinn photographer. It takes a lot of help to build a successful bike, thanks to everyone that pitched in!!!
Thursday, Feb 18, 2016
I MET GARY RICHARDS WHILE HAVING LUNCH WITH ED ISKENDERIAN OVER TEN YEARS AGO. WE STARTED TALKING ABOUT TRIUMPH 650 CAMS FOR RACING AT BONNEVILLE, AND ED TOLD ME TO ASK GARY, AS HE PROBABLY KNEW BETTER THAN ANYONE. GARY THEN TOLD ME THAT HE “RODE A COUPLE OF TRIUMPHS” AT BONNEVILLE A LONG TIME AGO. IT WASN’T UNTIL I RESEARCHED IT MYSELF THAT I FOUND OUT JUST HOW FAST (AND MODEST) GARY IS…
Gary’s father Rich Richards was a highly regarded engine builder and tuner who already held Land Speed records on a Triumph twin. In 1954, Rich set a new 650 class A record of 149.56 mph. This was big news in the motorcycle world as it was only four years after the “new” 650 Triumph twin made it’s debut. Rich was active in the Southern California drag racing scene and although fiercely competitive he would often help fellow racers, even during a race! Jack Wilson, Clem Johnson, and Sonny Routt are just a few who went to Rich for advice, as he was experienced in Nitromethane tuning.
Rich Richards and crew, Bonneville Salt Flats 1954
By the time 1960 came around Rich stopped riding and with 20 year old son Gary as the pilot they set a new two way average record of 149.512 mph. This was the world’s fastest unfaired Triumph 650…until next year.
Gary and Rich Richards, Bonneville Salt Flats 1960
In 1961 Gary ran the same stock frame 650 Triumph Thunderbird to a new AA class record of 159.542 mph (two way average speed). This AMA 650cc land speed record is still unbeaten 55 years later!
Gary Richards at Bonneville Salt Flats 1961
Gary went into active service in the military for the next four years, but Rich Richards continued to assist other race teams including the Dudek Triumph streamliner. Gary returned to drag racing his nitro pre unit Triumph and racing at Bonneville throughout the 60′s, and built his own Triumph streamliner powered by a pre unit engine with a 750 cylinder. In 1969 he became the sixth motorcyclist to enter the Bonneville 200 mph club with an impressive 221.742 mph two way average!
Gary’s Triumph streamliner, 1969
Gary has a successful business and is on the crew of his long time friend Sam Wheeler’s streamliner, which will most likely be the first motorcycle to go over 400 mph if the salt at Bonneville ever dries out. He also manufactures Dixon heads for flathead Fords.
As far as the cam advice… Gary told me he used Harman & Collins Racing Cams grind #6877, also known as “Super 77″. These cams are very aggressive and the cam lobes are shaped almost like a square. If you run into Gary don’t expect a lot of tuning secrets as he has probably forgot more than most of us will ever learn…
Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015
Our friends Patrick and Nik ran their 1955 750 Vintage class Triumph 650 gas bike at the Mojave Mile SCTA event and Nik was officially timed at 114.8mph on his first run. Congratulations is in order for these talented guys from Switzerland.
Franz and Grubb are proud to assist and support their race efforts, and weather permitting will be setting new records in 2016.
Be sure to follow YOUNG GUNS SPEED SHOP on Facebook to stay up to date on their upcoming racing events here