Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!!!
Well, after a bit of a delay, we return to the Valdosta fable. We have been very busy with the fueler on a number of different fronts. The first was adapting a set of carburetors to allow us to run the motor without nitro. A bit disappointing from a couple of different directions, but necessary to see about the smoking, build heat in the motor faster and check the clutch adjustments more often. It also didn’t clear the whole building out in two minutes like the nitro does, but that’s everyone else’s problem, I guess.
The second was the assembling and installation of a 999 motor. This was the next step and I will go into more detail after this episode of the story.
Returning to the track, we unloaded everything and decided that more nitro was going to be needed if we happened to go past the second round. The extra nitro also gives us a bit of leeway for percentage corrections as you can make the fine 1% adjustments needed more easily when you have pure nitro and pure methanol and don’t have to work from a mix to steer what you put in the bike.
While discussing this situation we noticed Tommy Grimes strolling down the pit lane, taking in the quiet of the Sunday morning. Tommy is the rider of Ray Price’s Top Fuel Harley and an extremely capable pilot. To watch him wrestle with Ray’s monster is truly a spectacle worthy of the price of admission alone. Tommy came over and said he was hoping to have a chance to take a look at the Ducati because he kept hearing all week end and was interested. Discussing the various aspects of our program and learning more about Ray Price’s operation I eventually got around to asking if they had any extra nitro to sell. He said they had been on the road for a few weeks and were getting low, but we could go over and ask. Talking to the crew chief, Jeremy Hoy, and Ray, we were ok’d for a gallon. That should be enough, and if by some happenstance we ran low it would be a great reason to go out scavenging again.
whoops – didn’t click the camera fast enough
Mixing up the nitro, the conversation returned to the decision made last night. It should come as no surprise a bit of perverse logic was applied here. Deciding to look back at the Bonneville notes, the most power by far was achieved with a 90% nitro mix. The bike lasted a bit over two miles there. With the right guesswork applied to the fuel system shouldn’t we be able to keep it alive on 90% for a full pass? Maybe two? Looking at the Air Density at 95%, the temperature at 79 degrees F and a density altitude (remember, we are factoring in a number of conditions with the A.D. and Dens. Alt.), we decided to leave the fuel system alone and add two degrees to the ignition timing. How’s that for an executive crew chief decision? A 10% increase in the amount of nitro is a pretty big tuning change in itself, and not richening up the fuel system to follow it a little bit is pretty nervy if you ask me. But Nick was OK with it so off we went.
Eliminations began and the fuelers were starting off the show. Dragbike.com can go over the details of the ladder and progressions. We were back in line trying to figure out who we were paired with for our first round. The turn out was a delightful lady on a Hayabusa calling herself “Barbie Racing”. She was also entered in two other classes, so this was no neophyte. I pity the fool who writes off an opponent because they are a girl, because chances are, they will take your lunch away and leave you sitting there wondering what happened. The lines were long as can be expected with 800 entries for the week end, and eventually we got to the front, and got ready to go. We started getting more and more heat in the motor and it seemed happier and happier. Of course this didn’t make those around us not used to the smell and sound of nitro overjoyed. A few (well OK, more than a few) dirty looks and blinking eyes as we pull up into the waterbox for the burnout. Nick snapped the throttle and the bike sounded very nice with the extra load of nitro. Nothing flew out or fell off so he rolled out and pulled to the line. As the lights went down, the lady in the opposite lane red-lighted. This happens when you leave before the green, and can be caused by something as small as a shift in position on the bike, depending upon the rollout the beams are set to. Nick left, I watched his launch and listened to the bike and then saw the red light. This meant we automatically won as long a Nick didn’t go over in the opposite lane or hit the wall.
He did neither and for our efforts were rewarded with an 8.738 @ 152.81 mph. Personal best e.t. and third best mph ever! I was amazed. Fred just stood there looking at the scoreboard too. Well hustle on down and grab the time slip and get back to the pits to get ready for the next round.
Going down to the far end of the return road, Nick commented on the fact the bike just pulled hard all the way down. I showed him the time slip and he did a fist bump and off we went to the trailer to service the bike.
Seeing the plugs were OK, we put them back in and topped up the tank. There was some oil blowing around the back of the motor, but where it was coming from wasn’t apparent, so we made sure there was some in the motor, cleaned off the damp areas and decided what to do as far as the tune-up in the motor. I opted to try a bit more fuel in the Main (midrange) and the first High Speed leanout. To try for a bit more mph, we took two degrees back out of the ignition timing. The clutch was happy as can be through all this, so nothing more was done there.
The one item that probably didn’t get mentioned in the reporting was the fact that Chris Hand was bound and determined to get in a good lap on his Redneck Express Top Fueler. He had been struggling all season, and came into this event the points leader only to have a leaking welded area around the #2 plug eat up qualifying time, and other issues keep him on the outside looking in. Chris is a veteran of the Top Fuel wars and he and his wife Sharon are two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. As we finished servicing the Ducati, we heard his bike in the burnout. It sounded good, not too high an rpm, and as he pulled to the line I realized I was too far away to watch, so I just listened. He left well, and the 1-2 shift was barely discernible. No banging or popping and the bike pulled all the way through the lights. The 6.10 he recorded was the best pass he had made in over a year. At least he had something to go home with besides broken parts and a bad taste. It was great to share their happiness after the pass back in their pits.
As the eliminations progressed, the Air Density started to come back in and the Density Altitude drop. This meant more burnable air, accentuating the tune-up changes made earlier. We figured to leave it alone and see what happened.
We were paired with another Hayabusa (do I sense a trend here?) and while neither reaction time was stellar, his was a bit better and he got to the 60 foot lights before us. By the 1/8 mile timing marker, the Ducati started to pull and by the 1000 foot mark, nick was well ahead. He stayed after it and came away with another 8.73! Since this was an 8.90 second index class, that put us “on the trailer” (we lost).
What a way to go out, though. We ran our best ever elapsed times on the final two runs of the year and while things were a bit oily on the back of the motor, we made fifteen runs with the Ducati over four days, with one day comprising six of those passes. We were basically out of nitro, all the parts were still in the motor and we had a great time. Loading up and the trip home is always easier when you can leave the track on a high note. As we headed north, it got colder and colder. That is the hardest part of the trip, coming back to the usual November weather in Wisconsin.
The Nitro Ducati Project had performed beyond our expectations this year, having made 12 runs down the salt at Bonneville, burning 18 gallons of nitro in the process, only hurting two sets of pistons. Thirteen 8 second passes at the dragstrip with ten over 150 mph is yeoman’s duty from a 749cc motor. The project shows pretty much anyone, with a little effort and common sense can have fun running nitro.
As you can see from the photo, it’s always something.
The next section will be dealing with the bigger motors we are going to test in June and the new ignitions we are making for them, along with a few other parts as well.
Thanks for following along and we’ll back soon with more on the bike and its newest developments.
Oh, and watch for the movie coming out in the spring of 2013, I believe, called “The Bonneville Project”. It adds visual detail to the nattering I have provided.