If you can't beat them, do something so insanely different they'll never see it coming. That's not exactly how the old saying goes, but it's exactly what John Britten did at the Isle of Man TT in the early 1990s.
New Zealand has a strong spirit of innovation and doing things differently. Some of this is cultural. Some of it is by necessity. When parts made in the U.S. or Europe take three weeks to arrive sometimes you're better off just making it yourself. That's how Burt Munro ended up building the world's fastest Indian in his shed. Later, in the 1990s, John Britten and a group of friends built, in their own shed, what would become called the V1000, a no-compromise racing bike with a highly innovative design.
When Britten and his team showed up at the Isle of Man TT in 1993 no one knew what to make of the bike. It had no traditional frame, using the engine as a structural component. Much of the body was carbon fiber, as well as the wheels. The front suspension was a double wishbone design rather than typical forks. The radiator sat under the seat rather than in front of the engine. The V1000 even had electronic data logging, which was unheard of in the early 1990s. Much of this technology, while not new, is still cutting edge today, 25 years after Britten introduced it for the first time.
Britten's effort was not a complete success, however. He entered two bikes in 1994. One of them blew up its engine. The other one crashed and killed rider Mark Farmer. It was a tragedy, but in the true TT spirit, Britten would rebuild and race that very same bike again to success.
This video focuses on the Britten V1000's return to the Isle of Man and a tribute lap ridden by Bruce Anstey, the winner of 9 TT races. It sums up the history of Britten, the people who rode the V1000 in competition, and its place in history as a million dollar museum piece that was far ahead of its time.