Two wheels. 1,000 bhp. 400 mph?

Story highlights

Triumph hopes to reach 400 mph

Driver is Guy Martin, Isle of Man TT racer

Current record stands at 376.3 mph

CNN —  

This week, on the vast, desolate moonscape of Utah’s salt flats, one man will attempt something never before achieved.

Guy Martin, a maverick motorcycle racer more used to the twisting, undulating and wildly perilous curves of the Isle of Man TT, will attempt to break the two-wheeled land speed record.

The vehicle British-born Martin will pilot for this straight-line challenge is at once familiar and other-worldly: a sleekly futuristic projectile called the Triumph Infor Rocket Streamliner, powered by what essentially amounts to two road-legal motorcycle engines strapped together.

The engineers behind it hope that the combination will be enough to break the current world record of 376.3 mph, held since 2010 by California’s Rocky Robinson.

The crew chief and lead designer for Triumph’s record attempt is Matt Markstaller. The Oregon-based engineer explained how man and machine will need to combine to make history.

“Instead of sitting on the machine, like a conventional bike, Guy is strapped into a seven-point harness with his feet in front of him,” Markstaller told CNN. “Instead of a single handlebar he has two joystick-styled controls.”

Read: The rookie upstaging F1 champions

Markstaller’s background is in aerodynamics, most recently working with Daimler. He had a clear idea of a basic design for the Streamliner, and the result is a striking machine that oozes purpose. Against the barren backdrop of the famous salt flats, home to both staggering achievements as well as tragic disasters, the Streamliner is a breathtaking sight.

The Streamliner trialling on the Salt Flats.
The Streamliner trialling on the Salt Flats.

The key to the bike’s design, Markstaller explains, is a balance of power and stability. The Streamliner must cut through the air while holding a steadfast line.

“We looked at the designs of previous land speed challengers. There are a few basic decisions to be made first, such as position of the engine, the length and position of the swing arm, the rider position and the housing of the actual structure of the machine. These dictate the basic shape.”

The team looked at known aerodynamic outlines developed originally by NASA, before tweaking and refining them. “We used something called computational fluid dynamics modeling, which is like a virtual wind tunnel. This enabled us to continually adapt the design to achieve maximum efficiency.”

Read: Are these cars the future of motorsport?

The design went through 24 different permutations before the team started building the bike.

This week, however, engineering gives way to the rider and the capricious surface that is so essential to a successful record attempt.

Markstaller admits to having a “love affair” with the salt. “Bonneville is a unique place,” he says, admitting that he even sleeps on the salt while the rest of the team stays in a hotel in the local town. “The spectacular sunrises and sunsets are part of being at Bonneville,” he told CNN.

Will the record fall? Have your say on our Facebook page

The Bonneville Salt Flats house dramatic skylines.
Education Images/Universal Images Group Editorial/UIG via Getty Images
The Bonneville Salt Flats house dramatic skylines.

Safety, too, is never far from the team’s minds. Many record attempts at Bonneville have ended in tragedy. “The biggest challenge lies in the changing conditions. If there is moisture in the salt or increased wind speeds, then record attempts can be seriously affected. If the conditions are not suitable then we will abort.”

This week, years of development may come to fruition.

“The conditions are some of the best in recent years, and the salt has continued to improve,” Markstaller says.

“We’re reliant on the weather remaining warm and sunny, but the Streamliner has been developed and tested to exceed 400 mph. We will go as fast as the conditions will allow.”

Visit for more news and videos

The Streamliner has already passed 274.2 mph in a trial run last month, becoming the fastest motorcycle made by Triumph.

The salt, and the record books, will sit in judgment over the next few days.