Bonneville 2012: Day Four

My morning routine consisted of getting a cup of coffee, a bag of ice and then loading everyone in the truck to get out to the salt.   Having sampled some particularly awful coffee at the gas station (where the ice was) I ventured to Burger King for coffee and oatmeal.  Oatmeal can be an adventure as there are a million ways to mess it up, but all in all it wasn’t bad.   I ran into the Buick crowd there (you know which one I’m talking about) and it was fun to listen to their exchanges concerning breakfast in a fast food place.  A sense of humor is definitely present with that group.  This morning was especially important as we had a motor sitting there waiting to be reassembled, and we set off half an hour earlier than usual, leaving the hotel at 6:30.

Out on the salt we were treated to another beautiful sunrise and a damn cold wind out of the west again, blowing hard enough to take the hat off your head.  No matter how cold it was in the morning, by midday the sun would be blazing hot and off go the jackets.  The easy-up went up a little more creatively this time, propped on its side with the van and Jim Kovacs’ truck helping to anchor it as the wind break.

Once again the Triumph provided some consternation as Bob Crook, the rider, came back over and said that the owner hadn’t arrived yet and record runs were due to start shortly.  The trailer was locked and all his gear and the bike were inside.  He lined up a tow to the starting line – one of the track officials demonstrated the incredibly generous spirit of Bonneville and offered to hook the trailer to his own truck, but the lock was a problem.  No worries!  I handed him the generator and an electric disc grinder: a Chicago Skeleton Key.  Evidently the key set was well-received – another racer used it to shorten his chain while they were there.  Despite his best efforts, Bob was a bit short of the needed speed to set the record.  Time for another look at the bike and try again to qualify.

Back in our own pit, the pre-run fuel-up and tire inspections were completed and we loaded up and made for the starting line.  We decided to try and get more heat in the motor, and started it early to warm it up.  The front cylinder exhaust looked a bit wet once it was running, and only got worse as the motor built heat.  Visions of a bad head gasket, water in the oil and a crank destroyed ran through my head.  Shutting it down seemed the best path, and a trip back to the pits to fix it properly.  Small problems can become terminal in this environment.

Notice all of the coffee cups…


Back in the pits, up on the stands and off with the front head.  Figuring a bad head gasket, a rarity with the OEM Ducati part, we put a new one on and restarted the bike.  It immediately gushed water and off came the head again.  It was at that point we discovered the true extent of the water jacket in the exhaust port area.  There was a paper thin layer of aluminum separating the exhaust gasses from the cooling system.  Evidently the reinstallation and retorquing asked more of that thin layer than it was prepared to give.  Upon removal the second time, a hole the size of a coffee stir stick was discovered.  Well we now can guess the cause of the steam and the stream.  A bit more investigation when we get back home as to exactly how close we can go in our search for the exhaust flow nitro needs.

On went another head and we restarted the bike with no water showing itself to the environment this time.  By this time it was getting late, so we had to hustle down to the starting line to get out on the salt.  This was where we met Scott Guthrie in person.  I thought I recognized him from photos and introduced myself.  He was watching a pair of his sponsored bikes make their runs down the salt and then came over where he introduced himself to Nick.

After the warmup, Nick headed down track.  We could hear the bike going up through the gears and once in the truck, heard the Mile 2 speed of 164.468 mph.  The speed through the quarter was 158.832 mph, so we knew something wasn’t right.  Nick said the EGTs were getting into the terminal range and rather than risk a burnup he pulled off.

Back in the pits we took some percentage away and a little timing and headed back out. This run went immediately to the red and showed us we must have hurt something on the previous pass, and Nick turned out.  Sure enough, back in the pits we found another set of hurt pistons.  It was at this point we decided to completely change motors and go with our tried and true initial drag race motor.  Old “9.04” came out of the back of the wife’s minivan and up on the stands we go again.

This was a full tilt thrash – complete motor swap. We did the same thing at Byron earlier, but the sense of urgency was much greater out here.  We were joined by Scott Guthrie, the radio announcers and numerous passersby who seemed sort of amazed.   There were a few areas we need to address to speed up the process, but by and large it was pretty straight forward.

Just under three hours later the beast came to life.  Two top ends and a motor change in one day I say puts the guys in the hardest-working crew on the salt that day, and probably the week.

Right at the end of the day, we were lined up and waiting for our turn on the track, when one of the officials came by to announce that they were cutting off the line – no more runs.  Our bike and the one next to ours didn’t make the cut… until another SCTA fellow came up and announced that the line was actually going to end after our bikes!  Both riders wrapped him up in a big bear hug, ecstatic.  That run was close… still just a few mph short, but at least we were able to try it out before the next morning.

Rechecking everything, we made sure things were ready and then loaded up the trailer for the night.  I was still trying to see a pattern in the tuning results and only found hurt pistons as a common thread throughout.  One of the areas of the tune up I thought we could try to use in dealing with the heat buildup was the barrel valve and the secondary.  Both are related to the lower rpm operation, which while not the predominant area of operation during the run, the start of the heat buildup would hopefully be forestalled past the end of Mile 2.  Sort of a tune-up bandaid.  Too rich on the high speeds and it didn’t want to rpm and this was where I thought we might go at first.  Adding barrel valve commensurate with what we used on the blower bikes and richening up the secondary jet yielded a whole new animal.  You could almost see the watering can of nitro being sprinkled in the motor and hear the testicular growth.   It was a truly different, more aggressive-sounding beast.  There was a bit more exhaust discharge from the front cylinder pipe, but we wrote that off to the oil that was let loose by burning a hole in the piston.  Plenty of thoughts to go kicking around our heads all night.

There was an unusual amount of cloud cover as the day came to a close. The overcast sky seemed to mirror our thoughts

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Awsome website! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some

    more. I am bookmarking your feeds also.

    1. mcperf says:

      Thank you – glad you like it! We’ve got a lot of projects in mind for this upcoming year (the Big Red is being reconfigured with a new front end made from scratch, as well as various other changes…) so stay tuned!

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