TURBO AT BONNEVILLE
John Woods and Roland Jones had a dream of building a very trick 750 Turbo and riding it at Bonneville Speed Week. One nail of a bike and only five years later, they managed it
How and why John Woods built a Kwak 750 Turbo to take to Bonneville Speed Week
A somewhat rueful John Woods says, “If I were to start again I could make a bike like this in about a year.” The bike he’s referring to is the one you see here, ostensibly a Kawasaki 750Turbo built expressly to compete at Bonneville Speedweek.and it took five years.
Both bike and goal are the joint brainchilds of John, known as Mang to his friends, and long-time motorcycling mate Roland Jones. “Roland is 51 now but five years ago he said he’d love to go toamerica, buy an oldyamaha there and take it to Bonneville,” says John. “I said why don’t we build a bike and take it with us?”and so a plan was hatched, with the aim of making the trip for Roland’s 50th birthday.
John, 57, hasn’t been without a bike since he was 14. He has been a 750 Turbo owner for the past 25 years and owns a concourse example “which has won quite a few things”. Given John’s experience of the blown 750, the pair set out to find one as a basis for the jointly funded project.as we talk it quickly becomes clear that this was absolutely a team effort, with John saying ‘we’ far more often than he does ‘I’, even though he would do much of the build. Roland, with respectable finishes at the Manx Grand Prix as part of his own motorcycling CV, would ride it.
An apparently suitable candidate was sourced via the 750turbo.com forum. John recalls that it looked “pretty trick”, with an 810cc motor and other mods.the plan was simple: modify it some more and make it go like stink. “Except it doesn’t quite work like that, does it?” says John.as it turned out, the bike was a nail. It would take another four years to get it working properly.
“When we first took it apart the pistons had melted, so we basically did a nut-andbolt rebuild,” says John, describing the list of modifications as “endless.”well, not quite, but you need to take a breath.the bike runs 810cc pistons, a Garrett T25 turbo and G-force boost controller, 1100 throttle bodies with bored and polished inlets to match, different valves, different cams and modified inlet unions with water jet-cut plates welded to shortened manifolds to ensure no leaks from the throttle rubbers. There’s a bespoke intercooler, a modified
“WE WERE READY TO GO TO BONNEVILLE, THEN A FORTNIGHT BEFORE OUR LAST TESTING RUNS WE TOASTED THE ENGINE”
plenum developed with help from the University of Southampton (“some young engineers showed us a bit about the management of airflow and we built a plenum out of that”) and a manual timing chain tensioner. It’s got a lock-up clutch, a bigger oil pump, modified oil pan and modified oil galleries throughout, a bigger fuel pump, a Power Commander, uprated stator and regulator, and an Innovate datalogger.the frame has been strengthened, there’s an Öhlins shock, a JMC swingarm, GSX-R wheels and forks, a rattle can paint job (with “trademark drips”) and a caliper-hugging streamlineresque front mudguard “like a piece of a cheese round”.
The sheer density of componentry is amazing. “From the front wheel to the back, every space is full,” says John. “Working on it is like being a heart surgeon.”and work on it he did.while there are bought-in components on that list, much of it was done by John himself
– a post-graduate engineer by training if not profession (he runs a dental products business).
“I have a lathe and a mill,” he says. “With the exception of the machinery I haven’t got, for turning new liners and stuff like that, I’ve done 95 per cent of it myself.”
For all that work, however, this is still fundamentally a 750Turbo – and it’s clearly recognisable as one, too. “We raced in ‘modified partial streamlining’, the MPS class, so it has to be fairly similar to the production bike,” explains John.
By 2017 the engine was producing 170-180bhp – a standard 750Turbo makes about 112bhp – although top speed was down due to fuelling issues. “We’d raced at Elvington with Straightliners, we’d raced at Pendine and we were ready to go to Bonneville,” says John. “But a fortnight before, doing our last testing runs, we toasted the engine.we ran it too lean, for a whole series of reasons, and suffered from detonation. Back to the drawing board.
Cue another “manic” year of rebuilding, refining, development and dyno runs. John admits that these days he enjoys building
bikes as much as riding them, but clearly this was a labour of love. “I worked on it through the night at times,” he says. “One night I fell asleep on the staircase in the house. I came in at 4.30am and sat down to take my boots off, then woke up at 6.30am…”
But the effort paid off. “On the 17th of July this year we did a Straightliners event and got to 178mph, so we decided we were going to Bonneville – which gave us about four weeks to plan.”
Organising a trip to Speedweek is hardly the work of a moment, but the bike was crated up and flown over while a team of five from the UK – John and Roland plus Doug Simmen, Matt Creed and Matt’s son Jake – followed on behind. Once in the US they met up with two more helpers, Brit Andrew Hargreaves, taking time out from a Stateside holiday, and Californian 750turbo. com forum member Darrell Baker, who rapidly took on the indispensable role of the team’s ‘Mr Fixit’.
The collective effort went under thewoods Jones Race Engineering banner – “you’ve got to have a team label there” – and they settled in for the week. “The first weekend was busy but it tailed off towards the end of the week,” says John. “We probably did about 15 runs in all.you could easily do five to six runs per day but I think the most we did was four in a day.”
Their best run was 177mph, but an electrical gremlin put paid to going any faster. “We weren’t disappointed but we knew we were capable of going faster,” says John. “We boosted at about 20psi but we know we could get up to 30psi.we never got a chance to run that, though.”
Speedweek has a habit of leaving people just shy of their objectives. In terms of realising their dream you could say it was mission accomplished, so are John and Roland putting their feet up and mothballing the 750Turbo?you can probably guess the answer.
“Roland and I don’t have a plan at the moment, but I can’t see Bonneville 2018 being the end of what we do.we’re going to do some UK events this year, but nobody goes to Bonneville saying ‘Well that’s it, I’ve done really well, I’m not going back’. People have asked why I didn’t ride the bike. I always worked on the principle that I would build, run and look after the bike, and Roland would ride it.the future is going to be different and I’m going to ride, but we needed to achieve the objective of getting to Bonneville, which was always our end-point. But fortunately it hasn’t ended – it’s probably a new beginning.”
“I CAN’T SEE 2018 BEING THE END. NOBODY GOES TO BONNEVILLE AND SAYS ‘WELL THAT’S IT, I’VE DONE REALLY WELL, I’M NOT GOING BACK’”
Roland Jones Racing and motorsport nut Roland has been competing on two and four wheels since 1986. Did the Manx GP in ’89 on an RGV250. Loves a big challenge and that’s what led him from the Isle of Man to the Utah salt flats. John WoodsA lifelong bike fan. Bought a Triumph Bonneville in bits when he was 17, and had it up and running within a couple of months. Had numerous Kawasaki fours over the past 30 years, and a 750 Turbo for the last 25. This was what the boys began with – and it was a nail. No big deal when it’s all going to be torn apart
This little beauty does the boost business
The original (in case anyone needs a memory jog)
Beyond the “re-ring and bung ‘em back in” stage
Decent plumbing is everything with a turbocharged machine. Air leaks spell EXPENSIVE DISASTER
Best In Show rosettes well-deserved
You simply cannot test enough in this game
Engine’s taken out to 810cc and makes 170bhp. A stock 750 Turbo makes 112bhp. That’s progress
Big JMC swingarm to take the power to the ground
GSX-R front end for silky smooth ride on the salt
Scrutineering is a very serious business at Bonneville. There is no such thing as a little leeway
Crate expectations, and largely achieved too
All set to follow that fat black line