Speed Triple Challenge

BookDavid Clarke, author of this article has published the mighty fine book
Hinkley Triumphs: The First Generations.

Words by David Clarke
Web enabled by Jon Wilkie



As 1994 dawned, Triumph was a growing, confident company offering a quality if somewhat “safe” range of bikes. The customer base now realised that Triumph was a serious manufacturer and there was confident in the engineering and was comfortable in the “strange” triple engines.

The introduction of the Speed Triple gave Triumph a bit more of a sexy image and increased the range and opened up a new market segment but one way of increasing awareness and to reinforce the quality and engineering was to race the bikes.However racing, particularly if it was successful and cost effective would provide an additional boost to the Triumph brand. The solution was a “one make” series with Triumph bikes competing against themselves and a Triumph being a winner.

A racing Speed Triple was displayed at the Racing Show in early 1994 with square number boards over the front headlight and on the rear flank of the bike complete with Shell sticker on the front. The front number board was changed to a Triumph triangle (the same as the badge that was fixed to the frame) used when the race actually took place and the bike was displayed with a 3 into 1 exhaust system going under the engine with a single slim aluminum silencer fitted.

From examining the photo of this show bike the exhaust manifold does not look like the TTS designed one that became available later in the year so may have been an early prototype.

Technical Development for Racing


Having got the agreement of the authorities the next step was to assess which parts of the bikes would need changing to allow successful racing and to create a set of Technical regulations.

The services of Ron Haslam were procured and his brief was to create a bike that would be safe, create close racing and also be relatively cheap to run. The cost was important as Triumph intended the racing bikes to be run by the dealers who would also own the bikes. To many of the dealers, running a race team would be a new experience and running costs would be an important factor. The tactic of having the dealers run the race bikes was an important step as the race bikes could be displayed in the dealer showrooms between races therefore being seen by many more people than attended race meetings and spread the message of racing success.

Ron Haslam has a well deserved reputation of being an excellent development rider and he also came with considerable race experience having competed at Moto GP level for many years, so was an excellent choice to assess the bike and make practical suggestions.

Ron started by running a standard Speed Triple (a bike from Triumph dealers “Lings” complete with Tax disc!) around a race track (Mallory Park) to assess its performance and behavior, the first issue’s were as follows:

  1. Ground Clearance

    Caused by the very bulky clutch cover on the right hand side of the bike and the standard exhaust system. This issue was partially resolved by cutting of the front face of the clutch cover and welding on a plate reducing the width of the clutch cover. Subsequently many teams used the slimmer cover from the Adventurer and out in a breather.

  2. Engine Breathing

    The standard twin exhaust pipes also reduced ground clearance so a 3 into 1, TTS/Yoshimura exhaust manifold and silencer was allowed as the only replacement exhaust system. This not only massively increased ground clearance but also allowed better engine breathing as well as making a fantastic “proper” racing noise. To compensate for the freer flowing exhaust, the main jets were allowed to be changed but nothing else in the fuelling system. A considerable amount of weight was also saved by the replacement exhaust as a pair of standard silencers weighed in at 9 Kilos! The manifold was a complex 3 into 4 into 3 into 2 into 1 system and also passed directly under the oil filter casing so every time the oil filter required changing then the exhaust manifold also needed removal, not too much hassle for a race team but a real pain once some of these systems found their way onto road bikes when racing stopped.

  3. Rear Shock Absorber

    The standard rear shock absorber also rapidly overheated over a race distance and any semblance of damping disappeared. The solution was the replacement by a Proflex rear shock absorber which was a gas charged unit and had a number of benefits including raising the rear ride height which further improved ground clearance as well as more consistent damping and a greater range of adjustment.

  4. Front Forks

    Which bottomed out under heavy braking and rebounded very quickly once the brakes were released giving a “pogo stick” effect. With the standard front forks and standard rear dampers at race speeds the bike would wallow, buck and weave their way around the track and on the edge of control, not particularly safe! The intention was the limit of control should be the tyre not the suspension. Ron Haslam’s  solution to the front fork issue was to change the front springs with stiffer ones and increase the weight of the fork oil to 20W and change the air gap, this stiffened up the front without making the bike un-rideable.

  5. Brake Pads

    Having resolved the handling issues the front brakes were deemed in need of improvement and Ferodo came up with a different pad material to fit inside the standard callipers and this eliminated the brake fade that Ron had experienced.

  6. Steering Damper

    With the increased rear ride height the bikes would turn in faster and could possibly be affected by “tank slappers” on the exit of corners so a single make of steering damper (Sprint) was allowed for safety reasons.

To keep costs down modifications were not to be allowed to the engine, carburettors or air intake systems except for the changing of main jets to compensate for the fitting of the freer flowing exhaust system. The exhaust system and bigger jets would only give a small increase in power and would not compromise reliability. The last thing Triumph wanted was a race series of Triumphs with engines blowing up everywhere and also engine changes would have significantly increased costs.

Ron carried out all the development work on the bike using the standard road tyre supplied for the bike, the Michelin Hi Sport which Ron rated as good, giving good grip feel and consistency.

Any team wanting to enter the races could only buy the parts required from a single company, 2-4 Sports and the cost of these additional parts was around £1000 over and above the cost of the bike which was very reasonable.

First Speed Triple Challenge Race – July 1994 Donnington


Once the technical regulations had been agreed, Triumph were keen to get some racing up and running and it was agreed that a one of race would be run in July 1994 as a support race for the Moto GP round at Donnington Park, with a full championship following in 1995 and 1996.

For the 1994 race the bikes had to be in Triumph Speed Triple colours of Racing Yellow or Diablo Black which would reinforce the Triumph brand and sponsors names were allowed on the standard bodywork which had to include the pillion seat cover. The technical regulations also specified that certain parts had to be removed for racing including:

 Pillion foot pegs, Side stand, Mirrors, Indicators, Horns, Grab rails, Speedometers, Headlamp glass.

The standard Triumph rev counter had to be retained as well as the standard instrument binnacle.

The choice of tyres was free from any brands available as road tyres that fitted the 180 section rear wheels. Brake pads were also free but after the testing by Ron Haslam the Ferodo was a popular choice.

Shell sponsored the race and all the bikes were supplied with a fibreglass triangular number board in either black or yellow but no one seems to have bothered using the same colour number board as the bike so they were pretty random in which colour was used. The front number board used the headlamp mounting bolts to clamp the number board to the front of the headlamp, this number board also including a Shell promotional sticker.

Other changes allowed included shortening the foot pegs and gear lever to get better ground clearance. The back of the bikes were jacked up as high as possible and the rear chain adjusters were also used to increase ride height. Unfortunately the consequence of all this was to cause the chain to cut through the chain rubbing block and into the swing arm.

The race had an entry list of 37 riders from 31 teams with some of the well known Triumph dealers running two bike teams (such as Windy Corner) and included many well known riders of the day including Ron Haslam, David Jeffries, John Reynolds, James Hayden, Matt Llewellyn etc and a number of racers from Australia, South Africa, Switzerland and Holland.

Some of the teams had not had much time to prepare and test the bikes before the race as Ron Haslam was still developing parts in June with the race being in July. Some bikes only received their race parts on the Friday of the race meeting and the first time they ran with all the race parts was in practice which meant race settings had to be guessed at. Some teams found to their cost that the road tyres they had selected did not last the race distance with some riders suffering lurid slides before the end of the race. Some of the bikes did not run with the Sprint Steering dampers but for the race series in 1995 every one ran with the steering damper.

One of the attractions for both the teams and the riders was the generous prize money not just for winning the race but all the way down the grid. The total prize fund for the race was £10,000 a significant amount of money which is why the race attracted so many top UK riders. Prize money was also available for fastest lap, and for each lap leading etc. Pole position was set by Mike “Spike” Edwards who went on to set fastest lap and won the race from Brian Morrison after a race long dual. There was not only prize money for the race win but for pole position and for whoever was leading at the end of each lap so this was a further incentive for Mike and Brian to slug it out. Mike had forgotten this but after 4 laps of being a close second remembered the prize money and led for the next 6 laps to the finish.

The bikes certainly provided close racing as there was a big crash at the first corner with a number of bikes going down in a heap, some of whom managed to re mount and continue but further down the field. Because the Donnington pits were full of the GP teams the Speed Triples were garaged in the Exhibition Centre (which is parallel to the track on the back straight (after Coppice corner) and a temporary start line was established on the far side of the circuit although the finish line was in its usual place. The bikes in the race were owned and prepared by dealers (but were allowed sponsorship from external companies), the winning bike being run by Bill Head who had a Triumph dealership in Preston, in the case of the winning bike, Mike Edwards “ran it in” on the road doing 350 miles before the racing parts were added and then taken to Donnington. In Mikes word “it was run in quite hard” which says a lot for the strength of the engine. Following the race win the bike was displayed at the Bill Head dealership for a few years before being sold for road use.

The bike is now owned by Darren Scott and has been fully restored back to its race winning condition complete with the Shell branded number board.

Mike Edwards’s view of the S3 as a racing bike was quite favourable, although he said that because the back end was jacked up so high to get them to turn in quickly they were a bit “flighty” in a straight line hence the need for a steering damper. Mike said “You have to be dead smooth, brake very hard but ease of steadily to allow the bike to settle before you pitch it in to the corner”. Another one of the racers Ray Stringer said” The Triumph handles well, at least with only 90 bhp it does. Maybe anymore it could get into trouble, but I was able to take Craner curves with the throttle to the stop”.

1995 and 1996, Mobil 1 Racing series


Following the announcement of the “one of” race at Donnington in 1994 Triumph already had agreement to launch a full race series for 1995 but this time sponsored by Mobil, promoting their Mobil 1 synthetic oil. The prize money for 1995 attached to racing in the series was considerable with £8270 available per round and race prizes as follows:

1st = £2000, 2nd = £1500, 3rd = £1000, 4th = £600, 5th = £400, 6th = £350.

The race dates were as follows:

1995 – Date


17 April 1995 Donnington
14 May 1995 Brands Hatch
29 May 1995 Donnington
18 June 1995 Oulton Park
02 July 1995 Thruxton
30 July 1995 Snetterton
28 August 1995 Cadwell Park
17 Sept 1995 Mallory Park
24 Sept 1995 Donnington

1996 – Date


14 April 1996 Mallory Park
21 May 1996 Cadwell Park
27 May 1996 Donnington
9 June 1996 Mallory Park
23 June 1996 Brands Hatch
21 July 1996 Donnington
8 Sept 1996 Oulton Park
22 Sept 1996 Silverstone
13 Oct 1996 Donnington
For 1996 the prize fund was similar to 1995 with £7,940 per round with again £2000 for first place with prize money down to 15th place.

The technical regulations were very similar to the on off 1994 race but with further clarification over some of the rules. The technical regulations insisted that the bikes were as standard as possible so that the bikes could be recognised as Speed Triples, so for example the hugger, seat hump, seat, instruments (you were allowed to remove the speedometer but the standard housing had to remain) all had to be standard Triumph parts. “The original panels, cowlings and mudguards must be retained to ensure high and consistent presentation and profile of machine” the chassis had to be standard and unmodified as did the ignition system. The engines were to be standard and the only change to the carburettors that was allowed was different sized jets to compensate for the exhaust systems that were now allowed.  Random checks will be made on Brake Horsepower to ensure that the engines do not exceed 98BHP.

The only items that were allowed to be changed were as follows:

  1. Afterarket exhaust manifold

    Only one was allowed, this being the Triumph Sebring system. The only allowed system for the one off 1994 race had been the Yoshimura (TTS) 3-4-3-2-1 and those teams that had this system could continue to use it otherwise they could use the Sebring system sold by Triumph. The TTS manifold had been designed by Rob Mathewson at TTS (an English tuning company) and manufactured by TTS with a Yoshimura end can and TTS confirmed that they only made 70 sets of these manifolds. In Clive Wood’s view (he ran the Jack Lilley Race team and raced Speed Triples) the Yoshimura (TTS) system was superior to the Sebring system with the Sebring giving better top end power but losing a little in the mid range. The TTS/Yoshimura system gave not only an increase at the top of the rev range but also in the mid range. From a Marketing viewpoint the Sebring made sense as this could be sold through Triumph dealers as it was offered as an accessory (at £599.00). As the seasons progressed many teams ended up with hybrid systems with a TTS 4-3-3-2-1 manifold and a Sebring silencer, this may have been the result of costs issues as the Sebring end can is considerably cheaper than a Yoshimura one!

  2. Front forks

    As with the one of 1994 race, a kit for upgrading the front forks was available. This had heavier springs, spacers to take out the standard fork sag and 50w oil with an air gap of 150mm.

  3. Sprint steering damper
  4. Brake pads

    These were free choice of any supplier.

  5. Clutch cover

    This could be modified to improve ground clearance but most teams fitted the clutch cover from the Triumph Thunderbird (introduced in 1995) which had a narrower clutch cover than the one fitted to most of the Triumph range at the time. The Adventurer which was introduced in 1996 was also used a cover similar to the Thunderbird and the race teams sometimes modified either the Thunderbird or Adventurer covers by cutting off part of the cover and replacing with a welded plate to further increase ground clearance.

  6. Oil Cooler

    A Triumph oil cooler could be fitted (from either a Trophy or Daytona).

In theory nothing else could be changed but “rule bending” became rampant, so for example the insides of the air intake systems were altered despite the rules saying that they should remain as standard. The ignitor box could also be modified as the sub harness on the 750 , so you could switch wires to increase rpm. The ignitor boxes could be chipped by changing eproms and could produce any rpm and / or ignition advance. Clive Woods said this was a common modification for Speed triples running in open competitions such as BEARS racing and still keeps one of his old race igniter  boxes that gave good power and used on his race Tiger.

Also an oil cooler from the Daytona was allowed to be fitted but not all bikes had had these fitted. Tyres had to be road legal and teams could only use tyres from an approved list including the following:

 Avon AM22, Dunlop D364, Bridgestone BT50/52, Pirelli MTR01/MTR02, Metzler MEZ1 Michelin TX15/TX25.

The entry list was again via the dealers who would own the bikes but sponsorship was allowed.

As an example Streetbike of Dudley (no longer a Triumph Dealer in 2010) ran 2 bikes, one being for the only lady rider in the 1995 Championship, Sandra Barnett and a second bike for Tom Cuddy and both bikes were painted in a pink chequer over a black base. Sponsorship came from a company called “Systems by Design” and the bikes also carried logos for Dunlop tyres, Arai helmets and BKS who had made the very eye-catching leathers with pink chequers following the livery of the bikes.

Tom Cuddy’s  best result in the 1995 season was a second at Donnington Park.

The prize money on offer attracted lots of the top UK riders of the day (most of whom were also racing in the UK Championships) so riders of the calibre of:


 David Jeffries, Ron Haslam, Matt Llewellyn, Brian Morrison, Mark Phillips

For the 1995 season Mark Phillips won the title and in 1996 it was won by David Jeffries.  The Championship winner would also receive a brand new Speed Triple as part of the prize.

As all bikes were not supposed to have any engine modifications they should have all produced pretty much the same power but subtle modifications were made so for example the Jack Lilley Team, Clive Woods logged 85Bhp at the start of 1995 for the Jack Lilley bikes but by the end of the 1996 season the bike was producing 105 Bhp! At each race meeting bikes could be randomly checked on a Dynometer with a max of 98Bhp allowed, but many teams found ways of cheating!!

Another change run by the race teams was to change the gearing by changing the sprockets both front and rear, the most common was to change the rear sprocket. The “normal” sprockets were 17 front and 43 rear but the race teams would run 47 to 50 tooth rear sprockets depending upon the circuit.

Buying an Ex Speed Triple Challenge Bike


At the end of both the 1995 and 1996 race seasons many of the original race bikes were in the main sold on by the dealers many with the race parts still fitted but some were stripped of the race parts had new bodywork fitted and then sold. The problem here is that once they have been through a number of owners any provenance as to their racing history has been lost.

Also many owners either have no knowledge of the race parts or have taken them off and sold them. My ex Tom Cuddy bike was easy to identify as it was still in its distinctive paint scheme, and because the dealer who ran the bike (StreetBikes) could provide me with Registration number, chassis and engine number.

Also all the race parts except the Sprint steering damper were still there.

Also there were the little giveaways such as all the bolts being drilled for lock wire and the damage to the swing arm caused by jacking up the back of the bike. The ex race bikes very often changed colour, I recently spoke to a guy who had bought the ex Rafferty Newman race bike which had been a yellow race bike but when Rafferty Newman sold it they fitted new Black tank and bodywork. The registration document for my bike says the colour is Yellow (despite it being now in Pink and Black!)

So genuine ex race bikes are out there but are very difficult to find and it may take some detective work to clearly establish who raced them, but many will remain anonymous.

Creating a Speed Triple Challenge Replica


As the base bike was a standard Speed Triple it would seem relatively easy to re create a Speed Triple Challenge Race bike but is it?

The parts required are as follows:

  1. TTS/Yoshimura 3-4-3-2-1 3-1 Exhaust

    Finding one system is extremely difficult. TTS only made 70 sets of the manifolds and some of those will have been destroyed in race crashes. In the 5 years I have been researching Speed Triple and buying spares whenever I can, I have only ever seen 1 set for sale (and I bought them!). Expect to pay over £600 if one comes on the market.

  2. The Sebring manifold

    Is a little easier as the system was available from Triumph as an accessory (priced at 599.00) and are occasionally seen second hand, expect to pay around £300 for a system in reasonable condition. Sometimes the Sebring silencers can be found on their own and if no manifold is available then Motad still make 3-1 manifolds which could be made to mate with the Sebring silencer.

  3. Sprint Steering Dampers

    At the time of writing these are still being made, cost I think around £140.00.

  4. Proflex Rear Shock Absorber

    Original cost was £528.00. Proflex are still making shock absorbers but only for rally cars but they will overhaul an existing motorcycle unit if you send it to them, expect to pay around £100 for an overhaul (strip, new seals, re pressurise). The shocks were available to anyone not just the race teams, but again the availability is poor as they were expensive. It could take a long time to track down a genuine Proflex shock. Also be aware that the length may have been modified, I bought (as a spare) the unit that came out of Pidcocks race bike but as it is longer than the original Triumpg shock absorber and pitches the back of the bike up it had been shortened. I sent it to Proflex who fitted the correct length piston rod. The total cost of the new rod and service was £300.00!!

  5. Front Forks

    There are plenty of aftermarket springs and I have been told that increasing the fork oil to 20wt and changing the air gap to 150mm helps.

  6. Oil Cooler

    These can come from a Trophy or Daytona, but not all race bikes had them fitted and they are a bit of an overkill on a road bike. Expect to pay around £50.00 from a breakers.

  7. Front Number Boards

    These were only made available to the race teams and all the teams I have spoken to said at the end of the 1996 season all that sort of stuff went into the bin! I have had replicas made (copied from a genuine ex race bike) and are for sale at £30.00 plus postage.

  8. Mobil 1 Sponsor decals

    Again I have had replicas made and can be contacted if you want to buy one.

So recreating a full replica is difficult but not impossible, you just have to be extremely patient, resourceful and have some money!!