“I’d have gone even quicker to be honest, but the wind caused a bit of a wobble, so I eased off.”
Read in isolation, that is the basis of nearly every motorsport story. ‘I’d have done even better, if only for the never-ending battle against nature and conditions.’ ‘I’d have gone quicker, faster or more, if only…’ But, with a bit of context, that particular opening statement is truly mind-bending, and it’s about time you learned about Ted Brady, the man behind one of the craziest records ever set.
Anyone who’s ever laid their hands upon a motorcycle’s handles will know the urge to twist the throttle. Go faster, go further, go up on the back wheel. Ted was the exact same.
“I was 18 when I first got a bike, and it was a case of just going out and messing. We’d race each other, but then I learned to wheelie, and that was it. I was on the back wheel everywhere; any chance at all really.”
So far, so very normal – a young fella popping wheelies, what’s new? But for Ted, it was just the beginning of an obsession that’s led him to world records and invites to some of motorsport’s biggest events.
Ted takes up the backstory: “As I was getting older, I started to get a buzz for competition. I entered a few local drag races, but by the end I’d get bored and end up doing the course on the back wheel. I toyed with the idea of going road racing, and tried out a few short course hill climbs, but it wasn’t for me. The risk was too big, and I doubt my mother would have ever let me do it.”
With racing pushed to one side, an outlet was still needed. There was a will to go fast and a constant urge to do wheelies, so in 1996, Ted headed across the Irish Sea for his very first competition. It was the start of a frenzied drive to become the fastest.
“The first time I went over, I just had my normal road bike in the back of the van. I knew no-one and landed on the Isle of Man not knowing what to expect. It was just a huge runway, a load of great people and some of the quickest motorbikes I’d ever seen. Everyone was so welcoming, and I was like a kid with all the freedom to go as fast as I could.”
Over the next few years, the bug bit. Wheelie competitions are a simple business: a 1km stretch of tarmac and the aim to go as quick as possible with the front wheel raised. I’ll leave Ted describe what its like from his perspective…
“It’s just a rush. The marshal gets the message to go and you get a tap on the shoulder. It’s head down, short shift right up to sixth gear. We get about one kilometre to get up to speed with the throttle pinned, but in sixth I have to be right at a sweet spot. Then, properly moving at about 180mph [290km/h], the front comes up and it’s all guns blazing then. The wind is pushing your body in all manner of directions, but I still have the throttle wide open. The cushion taped onto the seat doesn’t look great, but that was key – it kept me in the seat at full speed.”
Just picture that for a moment. Flat out, down a runway, and deciding to pop a wheelie while shifting into sixth gear…
“Cross the line, it’s a case of get speed off as quickly as possible without locking up. The front wheel shoots a cloud of smoke when it hits the ground and binds up for a second or two, but then I ease down the gears, but there ain’t much room to spare.”
Remember that sentence at the start? The ‘I’d have gone quicker’ one? Well, in 2017, during a Straighliners competition at the ex-RAF Elvington airfield in Yorkshire, England, Ted went faster than anyone ever before.
“I set the record at 217.85mph [350.59km/h] that day, but the wind was really starting to pick up and it got a bit squirrelly towards the end in fairness, so I had to back off a bit.”
No, that is not a typo. The man before me, who is such an absolute gent, has just very calmly described touching over two hundred and seventeen miles per hour on the back wheel. For perspective, all those clips you see of the Isle of Man TT or the North West 200, the top speeds are in the 196 to 198mph [315 to 318km/h] territory, but this unsung hero from the south of Ireland is eclipsing that down a UK runway.
“I was delighted when I got the record, especially now its in the Guinness Book of Records, but I keep thinking that I’d love to get back over and try to go even quicker. It’s always the drive to go quicker, you know. When I was on a 1,000cc, the plan was to be the quickest, and when this machine came up, I knew it was my chance to go for the real speeds.”
The machine part of this record is almost as impressive as the feat achieved. Born from a road-going bike purchased by a friend from new, Ted’s Suzuki GSX 1300R Hayabusa is a long way from how it left the Toyokawa Plant in Japan in early 2004.
“It was a bike that I’d seen on the road and really liked, and I knew in my hands it could be developed into what it is today. When the chance came to buy it, I just knew it was the one to set the record. It’s not the most polished up or showy thing, but it does exactly what it needs to do.”
At it’s core, this is a turbocharged ‘Busa pushed to the limit. The ‘Stage 3′ build features a BorgWarner EFR 7163 turbo, allowing for 540bhp to be sent directly to the rear wheel. The overall weight of 240kg (529lb) is heavy in the bike world, but the power-to-weight ratio is on a scale I’ve never seen before.
“The engine was built by Holeshot Racing in the UK. They pretty much changed everything necessary to handle the boost levels, but the engine is so strong from the factory that it can take a lot of abuse. Holeshot changed the pistons, con-rods, the cams, and then bolted on the turbo.”
The work of Holeshot continued through to the electronics. “They got everything running through a Syvecs standalone ECU mounted under the seat, and that feeds everything onto the AiM digital dash.”
“It’s actually fine riding at speed. It’s a bit heavy and the boost can come on strong, but I do like to test it every once in a while, keep it all working well and make sure there are no surprises for when I get back to Elvington for another go.”
That’s the overarching desire that shines through, that this isn’t finished yet. The record may be in the bag, but that just means a target on the back. There’ll always be someone looking to knock you off the perch, so why not raise the bar.
As we finished up the shoot, I still struggled to make sense of the whole thing. Here, before me, are two very different items. To my left, decked out in leathers and telling stories of rubbing shoulders with the greats of the motorsport world at Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2019 is one of the nicest and most humble men I’ve ever met, and to my right idles the single scariest motorbike I have ever seen up close.
Ted Brady is a record setter, a thrill seeker and has an unending passion for hunting speed. Not many have heard of the quiet man from Co. Cork, but what he does is downright spectacular.
Cian DonnellanInstagram: Ciandon
Ted Brady’s 2004 Suzuki GSX 1300R Hayabusa Turbo
Suzuki 1,300cc four-stroke DOHC 16-valve, CP forged pistons, Carrillo connecting rods, Kent Cams camshafts, adjustable cam gears, 12mm cylinder studs & spacers, cylinder barrel spacer, BorgWarner EFR 7163 turbocharger, Turbosmart HyperGate45 wastegate, water-cooled plenum with separate radiator & electric water pump, K&N air filter, 1,000cc jnjectors, Bosch 044 fuel pump,Dynatek high output coils
Syvecs S8L ECU, 4-bar MAP sensor, NTK race lambda sensor & connector, Bosch knock sensor, AiM MXL Strada digital display
Lock up clutch and spring kit, extended outer casing