Project VELOCITY Setting a new land Speed Record 2015

Team VELOCITY is a team based in Northern Ireland made up of Mechanical Engineers. Formed in November of 2011, they have been steadily working towards their goal of breaking the sub-1,000 cc land speed record, which has stood since 1967

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TEAM VELOCITY is a small, highly motivated group of Mechanical Engineers from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The aim of Project Velocity is to take their full fairing motorcycle to the Bonneville Salt Flats in order to set a new land speed record in the 1000cc Streamline Class S-F last set in 1967 by Burt Munro.

47 years is simply too long for this record to stand

Why is the record still unbroken after 47 years? The record has stood since 1967 due to substantial changes in the rules and regulations after Munro set it. Competitors have the added challenge of these new rules before they can challenge Munro's speed.

This is the laminar flow fairing we have designed. It’s aerodynamic performance will take us beyond 250mph.

I want to break Munro's record, that's why I started this Project and that's where it will end for me!

Sam Marsden - Project Lead

  • Set a new land speed record in the 1000cc naturally aspirated fully fairing streamlined class at Bonneville speed week.
  • Encourage young people to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) subjects.
  • Encourage people with learning difficulties to pursue their education & go on to further education.
  • Inspire young people to follow their dreams.
  • Showcase Northern Ireland as a centre of excellence for engineering.



The area of the Project that I am focused on is the aerodynamics. The objective in Land Speed racing is to go as fast as possible and the vehicles that go the fastest are the "Streamliners." One's first instinct is to throw horse power at the problem of going faster and in the Golden days of Land Speed Racing this was the accepted practice. However, going from backyard garages and stepping into the 21st Century of engineering such fallacies are taken to the wall.

Any engineer worth his 'salt' will know that as speed increases, power increases as a cubic. Therefore to go from 250 mph to 260 mph could either require an increase of more than 40 horse power, a moderate decrease in the vehicle’s cross sectional area or a decrease in the drag coefficient. Obviously the aerodynamics are critical, which was something I learnt during my placement at Red Bull Formula 1, and that’s before considering stability and safety. No rider wants their vehicle to turn into an aeroplane.

Sam Marsden

Having spent five years putting the Project together, having seen it grow from a simple idea into a fully-fledged Racing Team, going from being told it can’t be done to where we are now could be seen as success. Unfortunately that’s not enough for me I want to go the whole way and even if we try and fail, although I can accept that, it won't be success. I want to break Munro's record, that's why I started this Project and that's where it will end for me!

Ross Blair

My degree (Mechanical Engineering) is challenging in itself but the hardest challenge I've faced so far is actually applying what I've learnt. Nothing can fully prepare you for the real world of engineering; you just need to get stuck in. I learnt this the hard way on my placement last year!

Front Suspension and Steering

The area of the project that I'm currently working on is the front suspension and steering design of the streamliner. The streamliner's suspension must negotiate any small bumps or cracks on the Salt Flats, while the steering system must ensure that the rider has full control over the streamliner for the duration of the speed run.

Making a streamliner turn isn't overly difficult, however designing suspension and steering that can do all of this reliably at 200mph in a small space is quite the opposite!

Getting this wrong is not an option.

Engine and Performance Simulation

My area in the project is the engine drive-train this boils down to engine selection and tuning, gearing, exhausts, air intake and radiator. The rules leave this area fairly open, only limiting the engine capacity to 1000cc and ensuring the engine is naturally aspirated.

With the research i have done last year and using powerful computer simulation programmes it is possible to simulate our bikes performance at Bonneville salt flats before we race it. My calculations show a modern Japanese 4 should deliver enough power for the job.

Josh Logan

Motorbikes get me out of bed in the morning and are why I don’t go to bed at night. I don’t stop 'till I get the work done.

Stephen Hackworth

Failure is not an option! Giving up is the only way that we can fail and I'm not quitting.

Rear Suspension

My main focus is to design a rear suspension system suitable for the purpose of land speed racing. The main objective is to provide traction at the rear wheel whilst maintaining stability at high speeds. Following extensive research, I have designed an effective, lightweight solution which provides a high resistance to torsion, and is capable of maximising traction at both low and high speeds.

I'm always looking for new ways to challenge myself. Possibly the most relevant challenge for me is to be content. Sounds deep, but to put it simply, I've never been interested in finding a run-of-the-mill job and living the rest of my life in a boring routine. So as far as challenges are concerned…the more the merrier.

Internal Air Flow and CFD

Primarily I am looking at the inlet and ducted airflow required to feed and cool the engine. I am currently using design and simulation software coupled with QUB's powerful hardware to create and optimise the flow problem. Proper optimisation will increase pressure in the intake manifold to maximise power from the limited capacity, and also provide the correct mass flow rate to the radiators to prevent overheating but also to minimise drag.

The method I have chosen for this is to design the ducting architecture with geometric variables and limits that can be varied. The flow is simulated using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software. Using a statistical method called Design of Experiment (DOE) the geometric variables can be tuned to give new, optimised design. These methods can be used to give better understanding of flow characteristics around and through the bike before any production giving us the chance to prevent problematic or unsafe situations.

Peter Hamilton

Throughout my childhood I always posed questions of why and how with regards to science and technology. This curiosity has grown and now manifests itself as a passion of engineering and technological advancement. I thoroughly enjoy the content of my degree in mechanical engineering and wouldn’t choose a different path if where given the chance to go back and do so. Having spent a year and a half in industry including working with Moscow Technical University's Formula Student team, in ARUP with engineering consultants and as a Special Products Design Engineer in NMHG's Craigavon facility has only confirmed that I have made the correct choice.

"You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a lifetime." - Herbert James "Burt" Munro

Herbert James "Burt" Munro

Burt Munro (25 March 1899 – 6 January 1978) was a New Zealand motorcycle racer, famous for setting an under 1,000 cc world record at Bonneville, USA 26 August 1967. This record still stands today. Munro was 68 and was riding a 47-year old machine when he set his last record in 1967.

Working from his home in Invercargill, he worked for 20 years to highly modify the 1920 Indian motorcycle that he had bought that same year. Munro set his first New Zealand speed record in 1938 and later set seven more. During his ten visits to the salt flats, he set three speed records, one of which still stands today. His efforts, and success, are the basis of the motion picture The World’s Fastest Indian (2005).

  • In 1962, he set a 883 cc (53.9 cubic inches) class record of 288 km/h (178.95 mph) with his engine bored out to 850 cc (52 cubic inches).
  • In 1966, he set a 1,000 cc (61 cubic inches) class record of 270.476 km/h (168.066 mph) with his engine punched out to 920 cc (56 cubic inches).
  • In 1967, his engine was bored out to 950 cc (58 cubic inches) and he set an under 1,000 cc (61 cubic inches) class record of 296.259 km/h (184.087 mph). To qualify he made a one-way run of 305.89 km/h (190.07 mph), the fastest-ever officially-recorded speed on an Indian. The unofficial speed record (officially timed) is 331 km/h (205.67 mph) for a flying mile.

Professor P Blair

Professor Gordon P Blair

The movie, "The World’s Fastest Indian" gave us the initial idea but it was Professor Gordon Blair who convinced Sam Marsden that the project could and should be done!

"When I met Professor Blair I was still at school and, because of his interest in motorbikes, we talked amongst other things about Munro's record. To me it was just a pipe-dream but when one of the world's greatest engineers tells you that something can be done, you know it's not a fantasy but it’s a reality, not a question of 'if' but 'how.'"

Gordon Purves Blair was born in Larne Co Antrim in 1937 and educated at Larne Grammar School. He then went to Queen's University in Belfast to study Mechanical Engineering, where he obtained a BSc degree in 1959, a PhD in 1962 and a DSc in 1978 - this latter award is a "higher doctorate" awarded in recognition of a substantial and sustained contribution to scientific knowledge.

In 1962, having finished his PhD, Gordon Blair moved to the US where he spent two years as Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at New Mexico State University. In 1964 he returned to Queen's University where he worked and remained until he retired early in 1996.

During his career at Queen's University, Gordon rose right through the ranks to become a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Head of Department, Dean of Engineering, and finally Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University. His published research work includes over 100 technical papers, three research text books and he was the editor of three research compilations. He also had nine patents granted.

1971 was a very important year for Gordon and the Queen's team because that year they beat the works Yamaha team in the Ulster GP using a Yamaha engine which had been privately developed in the workshop and test cells at Queen's University - Gordon Blair and the Mechanical Engineering Department at Queen's were then on the radar of Yamaha in Japan who soon forged a technical agreement with him so that Gordon and his Queen's colleagues would assist with the Research & Design of the company's racing engines. This relationship was to continue successfully for many years.

When Gordon was diagnosed with cancer he decided to go back to where his story had begun and visit the places that had inspired him as a young boy to pursue engineering. This journey took him back to Loughside Farm where he met Sam Marsden who shared his passion for motorbikes and he encouraged Sam to go for Burt Munro’s unbeaten record.

"Mr Munro thought nothing of trying, why shouldn’t we?" - Professor Blair, 2008
  • Engine must be less than 1000cc (61 cubic inches) AND naturally aspirated (so no turbo or supercharger)
  • Vehicle must have two wheels and conform to the ‘Streamliner’ category. A Streamliner is a motorcycle designed so that it is not possible to see the complete rider in the normal riding position from either side or above. Its wheelbase is unlimited and must be single track. Power may be transmitted through the rear wheel only. Steering must be done by the front wheel only.
  • Fuel comes from an approved liquid fuel list. Examples of approved fuels are: all alcohols and ethers, hydrogen, nitro-methane blends, nitrous oxide and unapproved gasoline.
  • Brakes are prohibited on the front wheel.
  • Vehicles that exceed 150mph must be fitted with a parachute for additional braking.

For more information see the SCTA website

"Records are meant to be broken!" - Project VELOCITY

Sam Marsden has already spoken to groups of secondary and freshman students in order to encourage them to pursue their education and consider the sciences in making their subject choices.

"Most young people are just like me and will face difficulty with their education. It is much easier to give up and not try to overcome the things that stand in your way but if I can succeed anyone can. You need to believe in yourself and never give up.

"Getting an education has been a struggle for me, I was eventually diagnosed with severe Dyslexia when I was 10 years old. I was told the best I could hope for was to be a 'Bin man' and it was recommended that I go to a secondary school with a good 'remedial' unit even though my passion was science and engineering.

On the test track

"Against all the odds I got a place in a Grammar school, completed my A levels and secured a place at Queens University to study mechanical engineering which was a dream come true. I could have been happy with just that had I not met Professor Gordon Blair who literally rode into my life on a motorbike!

"He arrived one Saturday, I was studying for my exams and he just showed up on his Honda motorcycle looking for my grandfather. In his childhood he played with my grandfather on the farm and it was during this time through watching the plant used to power the milking parlour he was inspired by what would end up being the basis of his research into engine development."

When I was a schoolboy on a farm in Co. Antrim too many years ago, the milking machines were driven by a single-cylinder four-stroke Lister diesel engine with a long, straight exhaust pipe and, on a frosty winter's morning, it would blow a "smoke ring" from the exhaust on start-up. That schoolboy used to wonder how it was possible; I now know!

- Professor Blair, Design & Simulation Page 181

During the many conversations we had, I told him about my dream to break Munro’s land speed record and he encouraged me to make it a reality. To have someone of Gordon Blair’s standing to have such faith and belief in me really made an impression. He believed in the challenge and the ability of students from Queens to rise to that challenge and do it!

"Against all the odds and at the last minute I applied to Red Bull Formula One for a year’s placement as a student. After two interviews and out of hundreds of applicants I was offered a position as a junior design engineer. Rob Marshall told me I was interviewed because I had stated my ambition was to break Munro’s land speed record. It was my dream to attempt something ambitious that caught their attention.

"Unfortunately, it can be a 'Catch 22' trying to get interviews for jobs, you either need experience or something that differentiates you. Getting either can be very hard for young people like myself. Young people do need opportunities to gain practical real world experience."


"Working at Red Bull gave me opportunities that have helped me with my studies and what I plan to do in the future."

The race doesn't always go to the strongest or bravest- but sooner or later the man who wins is the MAN who thinks he can!