Bonneville 2012: Day One

Tech Inspection

Arriving early in the morning allows a choice of pit spots not guaranteed later on in the day.  It isn’t like the pits are cramped for space, being 5 miles long and 2 miles wide, but locating near a portajohn (or as they call them, “Honey Buckets”) is a major plus.

The first phase of unloading is done and the next stop is tech.

Equipment is verified for both the rider and the support vehicle.  CB radio and fire extinguishers are mandatory.  Next comes the rider’s leathers, helmet, gloves and boots.  These are verified and have certain unique requirements for Bonneville:
– The leathers cannot have any perforations in them (this is for fire).  You can now have small patches of stretch material on the back of the knees and in the armpits, but that is subject to scrutiny.
– Gloves and boots are similarly restricted, no holes!  Your helmet must meet the required Snell specification, in this case Snell M2005.  You get a nice sticker for the back of the helmet and a wire seal for the leathers.  I have one of my helmets with four stickers across the back, good for a mantelpiece in the future as a veteran piece of equipment.

Next up is the actual inspection of the bikes themselves.  There quite a number of items that need to be addressed for safety reasons and as soon as you add a mechanical fuel pump and nitromethane, it all gets more serious.  The first is the Ducati Fueler.  It passed tech last year and was basically a revisit of those points.  We added air inlet scoops that changed a seating location requirement so that adds an element of suspense, but once the deadman’s fuel shutoff was verified, the rest was pretty straightforward.  It is a personal point of pride when the bikes go through the first time.  Compliments from the tech inspectors (also known as “scrutineers”) are another prop well-received.

Then we move to the turbo bike.  Since the class record is over 200 mph, two inspectors are required.  The bike is perused nose to tail, and then they said that not enough of my butt could be seen.   This same configuration passed last year, but because the inspections are subject to individual inspector’s judgment on visible items, back to the pits we went with the purpose of showing more butt.  Since we weren’t going to lower the sides of the tail section, we needed to add more padding and a back to the tail that kept the rider from sliding back into it.  Re-inspection went well and we got the sticker that allowed us out on the salt.

Once back in the pits, the process of adding weight began.  The ballast was already on the smaller fueler as it was only 80 lbs of steel plates, but the 130 lbs added to the turbo bike  still needed to be bolted to the underside of the bike.  The ballast is added and removed out on the salt to keep from damaging the frame and tires in transport due to the bouncing of the extra weight.  Top fuel dragsters are subject to transport damage from this problem and have been known to break apart in the trailer or worse yet, on the track.

The twelve foot length of the bike makes this a very real issue since once the ballast is bolted on there is a definite flex when bouncing up and down on the seat.  Bob and Louie are in charge of the steel plates and even though they are numbered for orientation it is still a challenge to put all eight on. A final check of the plate bolts, tire pressures and then fuel up the turbo and put on the bodywork.

This is pretty much it for the day as we then roll the bikes into the trailer, secure the pits and head into town to the motel.  It has been a long time since leaving home at 8 o’clock the morning before and we have gotten a lot done.

Check into the hotel and a trip to the buffet to refuel and stoke up for the next day and then it’s lights out!


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