Day 2: First Day of Racing
Arriving at sunup, we were treated to a Bonneville sunrise. It is hard not to be impressed by that spectacle and the memory can stay with you forever. It was chilly and the wind was coming out of the west at a good clip.
The start of the festivities was a nervous affair, never having made a run down the salt with the fueler, and wondering how to keep it alive. After pouring in 3 ½ gallons of 70 % nitro and checking the tire pressures one last time, we headed out for the starting line. The three and a half miles of staging lanes were to become a familiar path as the week went on. We learned very early on to watch for the rough spots on the right or they will shake your teeth loose.
Pulling into line for the short course, we rolled the bike out and Nick started getting ready. He already made a number of passes down the salt on Jim Harraughty’s blown Triumph in 2010, so the rookie jitters were not an issue. Having made over 60 runs on the fueler at the dragstrip, the question of going straight and getting used to the noise wasn’t an issue. Combine the salt and nitromethane and there can be an issue, real or imagined. We were all a bit nervous and we started the bike to get a little heat into the motor. Since we had no idea how much the temperature of the motor would rise on a two mile run, we went the conservative route and only went for 90 degrees F.
The starter waved him off and we got to listen for the first three gears, then we had to run back to the truck to go retrieve him. Listening to the radio announcer, it sounded like a good first effort, as he went through Mile 2 under power and turned off with a top speed of 157.810 mph. Not bad for a first run. Now Nick had to take his time slip all the way back to the starting line and get it signed then come all the way back to the SCTA trailer for his license upgrade. One goal achieved, getting the license needed to run for the record.
Refueling and looking at the plugs showed little heat in them. The water temp also wasn’t coming up much, so we stayed with the engine settings used in the first run except for a slight leaning out of the second high speed jet and back we went.
The starter sent him out again and we heard the first three gears and then he pulled out. The same gremlin that had showed itself at the dragstrip came with us out here. The transmission in that motor would very occasionally hang up going into fourth gear if it was shifted too fast. Tapping the shift lever freed up the transmission and it had all the gears and seemed to shift OK in the pits, so back we went.
Taking two teeth off the rear sprocket in an attempt to get more speed was the only change for this run. I had heard that a nitro motor needed to be tugged on to be happy, so this was a little more of a tug. The third run of the day got us an increase in speed to 162.726. It is a noticeable increase but we were encouraged by the fact that it was done into a 13 mph headwind. Checking the plugs didn’t show anything scary, so we decided to stay with basically the same combination for the next day, Thursday. All in all it was a good day with improvements shown, and since we still had two and a half more days, we felt it was a good place to start from. Not killing the motor after two runs I felt was an accomplishment, having heard all the scary stories of other nitro-fueled efforts gone awry. Loading up the trailer for the night was a lot more fun, knowing we had a good starting point for the next day….or so we thought.
Back for another run at the buffet and then to bed. Not much of a social life out here it seems, especially for a nervous tuner, trying to figure out what to do to make a good run the next day.