(another post that was discovered unpublished in the list. Well, we can look back at the good run of 2009 to make up for the rain this year…)
This was the last day we had scheduled to be on the salt. The drive time back home had needing to leave Saturday night at the latest to arrive home in time for family commitments Monday morning (kids on the bus, etc.) The event itself had been pushed back a day initially and the SCTA opted to run on Sunday morning as a makeup time. What a temptation.
The weather was cold and calm heading out and it stayed that way as we unloaded the trailer and rolled out to make the first run of the day. The early morning temperatures were in the 38 degree range, so keeping warm was a bit of a challenge. Starting up the bike required a lot of choke and keeping a bit of heat in the motor was a good idea. It was these conditions that would lead me to believe that more than 40% nitro could be a dicey proposition. This is a consideration if we were to run nitro on our next trip out. We have made runs with the top fuelers in 38 degree weather but we were able to keep heat in the motor long enough to get the job done. The constant fear is the nitro puddling and relighting at an inopportune time. This has similar results to the below sea level air (mechanical exuberance accompanied by loud noises and bright lights).
The record runs from the day before ran first, as is standard procedure. The daily runs started off with a couple of beautiful streamliners and then went into some door cars. The electric bike then ran and left with a flurry of whirring noise, mostly from the chain.
Three pairs later I got to the line and after the prestart inspection I was sent off. Pulling away from the line I was rewarded with a lot of bucking and popping from the Ducati. This was followed by the motor quitting. I figured restarting the bike on the fly was OK and just went merrily on my way. Little did I know that if the motor quits you are done, just pull over and get out of the way. Well they say ignorance is bliss so I must have been plenty happy. Proceeding along, things sounded a lot like Thursday’s run where it blew up and with the banging out the exhaust I figured a banging of intake was coming soon. Trying a couple more throttle positions and a quick upshift and downshift to try a different rpm range or two, I gave it up and pulled off before the 2 mile mark. I have to say I was pretty disappointed, figuring all that work, driving and effort on the part of the guys here and back at the shop was going to go for naught.
The pickup was shortly done and into the trailer with the bike I went. The last time I did this was in 2007 when I changed another ignition and nearly gassed myself with the generator running to charge the battery at the same time. We have a charging system on the bike this year, so that wasn’t quite the issue it was before. This time I figured it had to be the carburetor, so into the spares I went for the other carb. This was the one we ran at the dragstrip last fall (another exercise in futility) and made 253 hp on the dyno instead of the 289 the other carb made. I was out of ideas and options so on it went. This process is a bit more involved than it seems because there are parts that need to be switched in addition to the carb itself, such as adaptors, cables and manifolds. Another trait of the S&S carbs we use is its propensity to projectile vomit gasoline out of the front of the carb unless a spring is used to help the float press the needle on the seat. This spring was transferred to the carb we were using and I forgot that until I turned on the pump and sprayed the whole front end of the trailer with gas. I transferred the spring and still struggled with the leakage. The new carb also required different jetting so a guess was made there on both pilot and main jets. New cables, throttle and adjustments to them followed. It was getting a bit fragrant in the trailer so the rear door was let down a bit to get some air. It was at this time the line moved forward and I watched helplessly as the door went crashing down, breaking off the bumpers that bounced along behind the trailer. I guess the good part of that was we only had one bike to load and unload.
Finally getting everything together I soaked up the gas in the belly pan and lit the bike. It seemed like it wanted to run so all that was left to contend with was a slight seepage at the overflow if the rpms weren’t kept high enough to burn the excess gas from the higher float level.
It was about now that a long time customer Rhonda Rideout arrived on the salt after starting for Bonneville three days earlier. She had said she always wanted to go there and now that she knew someone going it was as good a time as any to do it. I am afraid I wasn’t a good host as I was still a bit cranky after the mechanical thrashing and needed a bit of time to reset my mind. I felt an empathy with Burt Monro as I was just looking for “One Good Run”, the title of his biography by Tim Hanna.
It always seems the line never moves very fast until you are trying to get things done and true to form we were unloading the Ducati before I realized it.
Topping up the gas, with most of the previous tank going all over the inside of the trailer, checking the tires once more and it was time to suit up.
Getting to the starting line, it is a challenge to gather yourself up and put everything else out of your mind. It doesn’t matter what happened on Thursday or even what happened earlier in the day. The task at hand requires all of the meager resources my mind can muster. Being determined to not kill the motor I left a bit of clutch dust behind and started out towards the first mile marker.
The motor seemed happier this time and as I shifted it ran well. I shifted into third and gave it a bit more throttle and got some wheelspin. Rolling of a bit helped it to catch up and I shifted into fourth. I glanced down at the GPS and it said 163, but the 1 ½ mile marker was going by. It was than I realized I had better get going if I expected to reach the 175 mph threshold needed for the next license upgrade. I rolled up a bit more throttle and shifted in to fourth. At this point things began to change and feel like they did in 2007 on the last run that year. The wind was causing the shield to vibrate, making vision something of a blur. It was till pulling hard so I clicked it into fifth and turned it up. The vibration of the shield intensified and I saw the loose stuff in the middle of the track coming up real fast. Not feeling very inventive I just ran through it. The bike was starting to move around a bit, but nothing too terribly alarming, a lot like running across a frozen lake with sheet metal screws. I peeked up over the fairing screen but it didn’t help so I tucked back in and looked between the tach and the EGT gauge, about a 2 by 3 inch space. I knew it was faster than I had ever gone before as I saw the 2 ½ mile marker go by, but I was more concerned with keeping the markers equidistant on both sides in my peripheral vision. I remember asking myself “Is this really what I want to be doing?”. I think this caused me to roll off the throttle a bit and then the next bright spark was ”To hell with it I want a good timing plaque to show the boys back at the shop”. I then rolled the throttle back on, the bike took off, and I was shortly after rewarded by rather loud bang….AGAIN. About two or three seconds later the three mile marker went by and I looked down to see the right side of the intake manifold looking like you Mom’s purse unzipped and laying on the table. The bike had quit running when the manifold split this time. I looked at the gauges (the first time I could see them since the 1 ½ mile marker) shut the throttle, hit the kill switch and rolled over to the return road.
After a run like that it takes awhile for the details to sink in. I had just gotten my helmet off when a couple of the SCTA trucks came rolling up. I had never been graced by their presence before and my thought went back to the coupe earlier in the event.
“Are you OK? Did you lose any parts?”
I looked at the bike and it all seemed to be there. I looked at myself and I seemed to be pretty much there as well. “No I’m OK and no parts are gone, thank you.”
They resumed their activities and I sat there with no idea how fast I went. I forgot to hit the “Start” button on the GPS so no data was collected.
I looked up the salt and there came the crew, with Rhonda. At the same time a white pickup truck pulled up and three guys got out and started snapping photos. I have no idea who they were, but I am sure the dazed look on my face was reward enough.
Bob and Louie came up and said something about 95 or 195 or 55 or something like that. I was confused. They saw the manifold and than mentioned the announcer said over the radio “Big bang at mile three, BIG bang”. The announcer was over a half mile away. All I could say was “this thing was f****n’ flying!”
We loaded up the Ducati with the knowledge that that was it for the event and proceeded to go back to the pits. They let me off at the timing tower so I could get my time slip. I climbed the stairs to the top and noticed the springy plywood.
Once at the top I said my number and they handed me the slip. I couldn’t believe my eyes when it said 195.086 mph at the quarter and an exit speed of 195.655 at mile marker 3! I just stood there for a bit and probably provided them their entertainment for the day with the shocked look on my face.
They were kind enough to print me off a second copy and I almost fell down the stairs in my hurry to get back to the boys and show them. I can understand the confusion as I am entry number 9595, went 195 in the quarter and 195 as an exit speed. Who’d a thunk it? I do believe we are the fastest Ducati at Bonneville by a considerable margin.
After some serious hooting and hollering, I got on the spree and went to get the ticket signed for my license upgrade. Getting the ticket signed at tech I then had to go all the way down to the starting line to have a starter sign off on it as well. That seemed to take forever, but I finally made it there, got the signature and back to the signup trailer to get the actual license. It was such a turnaround from just earlier in the day I don’t think it set in completely until later that night in the snowstorm in Wyoming on the way home.
Loading up the trailer, getting ready for the ride home took a couple of hours, but then we went to the starting line to drop Rhonda off at her rental car. She was scheduled back in Salt Lake to catch the return train back to Chicago the next morning. Her trip wasn’t as scary as the snow in Wyoming! Heading back on I-80 was a relief of sorts and we couldn’t wait to get home!
I would like to thank a lot of people for their help and support on this project.
Jim Haraughty and Team MS who started this whole deal for me. I hope we can do justice to the cause of raising awareness of and treatments for Multiple Sclerosis.
Bob Crook and Louie Lamour who accompanied us on this and the last trip. The help driving, loading, unloading and general good humor are greatly appreciated. We couldn’t do it without their help.
The crew at Motorcycle Performance in Madison Wisconsin. Fred Weege doing the motors, Nick Moore doing the tires and suspension and WJ working the counter to allow me the time to work on the bikes. Also thanks to my daughter Jacki who did the bodywork and primer on the bikes, Steve Dale who did the paint, Leigh who did the work on the pit bike, and Samantha who put this deal on the website.
And lastly but not leastly my wife Patty whose forbearance and sense of humor allows me to indulge in these endeavors that can now be called midlife crises. Before it was just another crazy idea.
*All photos courtesy of Bob Crook and Gary Ilminen