Feature: Leamington motorcyclist remembers the rush of being a world land speed record breaker

Norman Hyde riding Roadrunner III
Norman Hyde riding Roadrunner III

This September marks the 45th anniversary of a Leamington man’s World Sidecar Land Speed Record - a record that remained unbeaten for more than 30 years.

It was on September 24 1972 that Norman Hyde - the “Warwickshire Wizard’ - drove his home-built Roadrunner III outfit to an average speed of 161.8 mph at RAF Fairford.

At the time Norman, now 72 and a father of three and a grandfather of three as well, worked as a development engineer at Triumph’s Meriden factory and used his experience to boost a Triumph Trident engine by enlarging it to 850cc and adding a supercharger.

But what inspired him to build the machine and make the daring attempt?

He said: “When you’re young you do riskier things.

“It’s a bit like why people climb mountains - because they’re there to be climbed.

“You set yourself targets in life and you go for them.

“I didn’t do it for fame or recognition - it’s something I was very proud of and still am but I did it because I wanted to show that I could.”

Norman vividly recalls the feeling and sound of the ride where he experienced 1g of acceleration and was riding at speeds of up to 180mph.

He said that after the ride he had to lie down for 15 minutes because of the massive adrenaline rush he was experiencing.

He said: “It was deafeningly noisy inside the aluminium body and without ventilation it was incredibly hot too, and very jittery – the front wheel lifted at 170mph.

“It was all untested at those speeds.”

With technology advancing in the decades following Norman’s feat, it is somewhat surprising that the record was not broken earlier.

He said this was more to do with there not being a will from companies to support and sponsor such an effort as he made when smaller companies such as Beauchamp Motors based at the White Hart site in Ufton were prepared to give him its backing just to have their name written on the side of Roadrunner 

Norman said: “There was less and less interest from the trade and companies didn’t see it as a way to sell products like they did before the Second World War.”

Roadrunner III was added to the National Motorcycle Museum’s collection in the 1980s but was one of the 380 machines that was severely damaged when fire tore through the building in September 2003.

Painstakingly restored by John Woodward, whose late brother Don made the original bodywork by hand, Roadrunner III was returned to the motorcycle museum near Solihull in November 2013.

Norman remains a committed motorcyclist - he recently took delivery of a new 1200cc Triumph Bonneville T120 - and the company that bears his name continues to supply performance and styling products for Triumph motorcycles.

In November he will travel to Holland to give a talk about his experience to members of the Dutch Triumph Owners Club.

And he and his wife Diana have recently celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary.

For more information about Norman visit www.normanhyde.co.uk