It takes a special kind of crazy to get into land speed racing. You need the genius of an aerospace engineer, a stuntman’s disregard for personal safety, and a lawyer’s knack for twisting the rulebook. Plus a measure of what the Brits call ‘sheer bloody-mindedness.’
Alp Sungurtekin has those qualities by the bucket load. How else can you explain a man who has taken a 650cc Triumph pushrod motor and quintupled its output from 33 horsepower to more than 150?
Alp is an industrial designer by trade, but it’s land speed motorcycles that butter his toast. His latest goal is to reach 200 mph (322 kph) at Utah’s most famous motorsport venue, the Bonneville Salt Flats, on the ‘kneeler’ Bike he has designed and built himself. (And that’s without the benefit of a dustbin fairing, since that particular aero trick has now been outlawed.)
His partner in crime is his crew chief Jalika (above right), and they make the perfect pair: Alp chasing a dream that everyone thinks is impossible, while Jalika manages the team, helps to rebuild engines in hotel rooms, and gets Alp safely off the starting line.
This is not a new endeavor for Alp and Jalika. Their previous motorcycle, known as the ‘A Bike’ (below), holds vintage and pushrod engine class records—at a heady 175 mph (282 kph).
Building on this tried-and-tested platform, Alp and Jalika have set their sights on 200 mph using a pre-1956 bike. So the project was aptly named Target 200, and long-time sponsor Lowbrow Customs came on board for support.
It’s worth noting that Alp builds his engines and bikes by himself, in his one-car garage in Sun Valley, California. But for T200, he had to tackle something he hadn’t tried before: create extensive bodywork to streamline the bike.
“I love aluminum, so I decided to use that for the body,” says Alp. It’s all freehand: no bucks, molds or reference objects. Just a hammer, dolly and English wheel.
“The entire build, excluding the plating and painting, took more than 1,500 hours,” Alp confesses. “The cylinder head work alone took longer than building the entire frame from scratch.” Every part of this Triumph has been designed or fabricated for a purpose—sometimes aerodynamics or functionality, and sometimes to meet the rulebook.
The engine is a Triumph pre-unit, iron head 650cc, which is normally air-cooled. But in this case, it’s now ‘fuel cooled’ by running a nitro methane mix, with a ratio of 90% or more nitro. There’s also a ‘total loss’ oiling system, which sees oil simply pass through the engine rather than being recirculated.
The highly modified cylinder head has been flipped 180 degrees, so the intake is at the front and the exhaust pipes are at the rear. The D-shaped, raised exhaust ports were brought far inbound from stock; parallel exhaust pipes run between Alp’s thighs when he’s piloting the bike.
The exhaust pipes are stainless steel, and were hand-formed using oxy-acetylene as single pieces, instead of welding together mandrel bent tubing, which is far more common for custom exhausts.
The T200 has a dual fuel system. For the initial start-up and idle, Alp uses a gravity fuel feed from a remote tank, then switches to nitro methane and a mechanical pump at the start line. Fuel is delivered via a pair of smooth bore, 1½-inch Amal GP carbs, supplied by Burlen Fuel Systems.
‘Top fuel’ engines can produce an incredible five horsepower per cubic inch. The T200 has more advanced port geometry than Alp’s 175 mph ‘A Bike,’ which had an estimated 150 or more horsepower.
The engine is not the only radical aspect of this build. The front fender is equally revolutionary, so Alp has nicknamed it the Flex Fender™.
“The SCTA and FIM banned dustbin fairings a long time ago,” he explains. “I had to come up with something that’s as good as a dustbin, but would pass scrutinizing. So I designed a fender that’s separate from the main bodywork, but keeps the benefit of the dustbin style.” The fender is flexible, overlaps the main bodywork, and can turn. Technically it is separate, and it moves.
The sitting position is also unique, and the side panel cutouts are kept to a minimum. Land speed racing rules require the rider to be visible from the sides, so the bodywork cannot cover anything but the rider’s forearms and hands. Not surprisingly, the SCTA committee inspected the T200 very thoroughly at Bonneville Speed Week before clearing it to race.
The handlebars are another unusual touch: they’re drastically different lengths. This confuses many onlookers, but they allow Alp to angle his shoulders while riding and reduce wind resistance—a critical factor for land speed record motorcycles.
Lowbrow Customs’ Tyler Malinky (below right) accompanied Alp on his first visit with T200 to the salt flats. “The frame and bodywork performed well during the test runs,” Tyler reports. “But only four runs could be made because of course conditions, which left the engine with piston damage due to lean fuel.”
“But the T200 reached 170 mph, and recorded an official timed speed of 149 mph, despite not being able to get into its power band.”
It must have been frustrating for Alp. But as a seasoned racer (and record holder), he knows that records do not come cheap—and there are many stars that need to align. “We cannot rely on the Bonneville surface,” he says, referring to the worsening salt conditions over the last decade.
Alp’s plan is to modify the chassis so that T200 can race in May at El Mirage, the dry lakebed just outside Los Angeles. The El Mirage surface is compacted clay and silt, rather than waterlogged salt, but has been likened to a plowed field.
Getting traction can be even more of an issue on this shorter track. But unlike Bonneville, where you need two runs to set a record, a single pass at El Mirage is enough. And racers on four wheels have occasionally gone past the 300 mph mark.
That’s enough to give Alp optimism, and we have a hunch that he’s going to meet his target this year. Join us in wishing him luck.
Alp Racing & Design | Facebook | Instagram | Lowbrow Customs | Studio images by Derek Althen | Location images by Mikey Revolt
A note from Alp Thanks to Jalika for her support throughout the project, Tom ‘Rodan’ Evans, Joe Koenigsmark and Shawn Long for the amazing paint, and Tyler Malinky and our great race crew. Also, to Derek Althen for working very hard to get these great studio photos of the T200 before we took it out and beat it up on the racetrack!
Alp Racing & Design would also like to thank their sponsors for their support, and for believing in them: Lowbrow Customs, Amal Carburettors/Burlen Fuel Systems, Morris Magneto, Pingel, Klotz Synthetic, Kibblewhite Precision Machining, Vintage Bike Magazine, Web Camshafts, MAP Cycle and World Wide Bearings.
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