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Jean-Paul Rude, the Porsche chaser

The cyclist wanted to break the speed record on two wheels by taking advantage of the help of a Porsche 935 Turbo.

One of the most common challenges in history is to be as fast as possible. Whether by car, plane, on foot or by bike, humans never settle for a few km / h.

Towards the end of the 70s, French appeared Jean-Claude Rude, who set out to reach a speed of 240 km/h pedaling a bicycle and taking advantage of the aerodynamic suction generated by a car that would make way for the resistance generated by the wind.

It was clear that it would not be an easy task to accomplish such a feat, so Rude's team boss contacted his compatriot. Henri Pescarolo, one of the most prominent racing drivers of that era.

The model chosen to help set the record was a 935 hp Porsche 800 turbo of the team Martini Racing. The vehicle was retrofitted with an ingenious roof design that included a trapezoidal plate that extended across the rear of the sports car to ensure maximum slipstream.

Jean-Paul RudeAdditionally, a roller was included along the rear, ensuring that the front wheel of Rude's bike would effectively “stick” to the rear of the Porsche 935, ensuring that it stayed in the wake.

The front gear mechanism had almost the same circumference as the wheel itself, while the rear gear mechanism was only about an inch in diameter. With a crank revolution of around 110cm, the bike had an exceptionally large gear ratio.

Thanks to this, he managed to cover a distance of 27 meters with one revolution of the chain ring.. However, this also meant that the bike had to be pushed by a motorcycle with a spear of sorts to begin with as Rude couldn't generate enough breakout force.

The Volkswagen test track in Ehra-Lessien, near Wolfsburg, was the setting chosen for the test. This venue presented additional challenges as there was a curve at the beginning and end of the straights so getting started was more difficult. Rude had to gradually increase speed on his bike, while the Porsche had to go slow enough to make sure the rider stayed in line.

On Wednesday August 23, 1978, at 10:30 in the morning the operation began. After a couple of attempts to warm up, the duo managed to stay on the straight.

The event was told by an article published in the magazine Christophorus As follows: “Jean-Claude Rude accelerated, pedaling fast and at that moment, at a speed of 150 km / h, he came off the steep slope on the roller. Now you can go up to the speed you want: 240 km / h on the seven-kilometer stretch to the measurement section. Pescarolo, in the Porsche 935, is gradually starting to accelerate, when suddenly the unexpected happens: Rude loses control of his bike. The rear tubular tire comes off and gets tangled between the wheel and the frame. The wheels lock and the rim flies over the pavement. Rude manages to regain control of the bike that is skidding, 'like a skier' and glides down the track on the edge, until he loses speed and comes to a stop after a few hundred meters, without injury. "

This was the first and last attempt to reach the record as, sadly, Jean-Claude Rude died in a tragic accident the following year.


After the French Joseph Meiffret became the first person to exceed 200 km / h in 1962 behind a Mercedes Benz 300 SL on a German highway, the American doctor Allan abbott reached a speed of 223,466 km/h behind a 1955 Chevrolet. Finally, the Dutch Fred rompelberg holds the current absolute speed record on a bicycle: in 1995 he achieved a speed of 268,8 km/h after pedaling behind a trolling motor.



Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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