Brough Superior: Back to the Track

Brough Superior builds a race bike, the Moto2 Grand Prix Racer.

Sideview of the Brough Superior

Relaunched Brough Superior plans to go racing with its new carbon fiber Moto2.

Photo Courtesy MC Staff

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Brough Superior was the manufacturer of the world’s fastest, most desirable and most exclusive motorcycles in the pre-World War II era. Only 3,000 were made before production ceased in 1939.

Britain Mark Upham, who acquired the brand in 2008, has been building new examples of the iconic Brough Superior SS100, which in many ways was the first true Superbike and in the 1930s was the motorcycle of choice for cognoscenti of speed. These included legendary figures such as T.E. Lawrence “Of Arabia,” who owned seven Broughs and died in an accident on one in 1935. Upham’s SS100s, which start at $250,000, are authentic down to the smallest detail, but with the added benefit of electric start.

In addition to challenging speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats on the “Baby Pendine,” Upham’s rebirth of Brough is heading in new directions with the recent unveiling of the Brough Superior Moto2 Grand Prix racer, which Upham plans to race as a wild card entry in selected 2014 World Championship rounds as a prelude to a full Moto2 race season in 2015.

Constructed for Brough by TaylorMade Racing in Los Angeles, the Moto2’s carbon fiber composite chassis integrates the fuel tank and bodywork in a single monocoque, cutting weight and increasing stiffness. “Moto2 is meant to be a prototype class for chassis manufacturers,” says TaylorMade’s Paul Taylor. “While the racing is fantastic, the level of innovation has been frankly disappointing, and our new Brough Superior aims to address that.” Like all Moto2 bikes, the new Brough is powered by a Honda CBR600 engine.

The bike has several innovative features, including an integral fuel cell positioned just behind the engine, running vertically to below the swingarm pivot to centralize mass while also allowing a constant weight balance to be maintained as the fuel level drops. An ultra-light all carbon fiber swingarm provides reduced unsprung weight, and the front suspension is a single wishbone with damping via gas charged, fully adjustable cartridges in 43mm fork tubes.

U.S. Superbike rider and factory Buell racer Shawn Higbee has been developing the bike on track and feels it is ready to race. “The thing that stands out most is the way it absorbs bumps even when you’re trail braking very late and very hard into a turn, because the front end has such little stiction when the bike is leaned over. With a conventional telescopic fork, when you get a full lean and the forks get twisted and bound with lateral forces, they don’t work as good as they normally should — but on this bike the front keeps right on working well. It has so much potential once you get your head around the different things it’ll do that a conventional bike will not,” he says.

The Moto2 was unveiled at a party staged by London’s Ace Cafe at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and hosted by comedian and bike fan Jay Leno — himself the owner of no less than six original Brough Superiors, as well as one of the first of Upham’s modern recreations. “We plan to make customer versions (of the Moto2) available for purchase once the bike has been fully developed and raced,” Upham says. “In the meantime, its presence on the starting grid will underline the fact that Brough Superior is not a brand of yesteryear, but of today — one that’s alive and well.” MC