Eyes Wide Open!

June 15, 2014

Having made some changes to the clutch and discovered we hadn’t hurt the motor it was time to venture forth again in search of glory, or the next best substitute.

quick notebook sketch of the road to Byron

Byron Dragway was the venue of choice again and off we went.

A friend of mine, Arnie Heller, from Sun Prairie, has a turbocharged Kawasaki funnybike he has been working on to get back out in the world of 6 second passes at over 200mph.  Many years in the making, it uses technology he relied on in the past for many a big speed ride.  Getting back into a bike such as that after many years away is no small undertaking.  Technology marches on, and trying to keep up with it is no mean feat.  Having entered and exited the worlds of Top Fuel motorcycles and roadracing at the professional level, I can tell you it can try a person’s soul.   A search for nearly 200 missing horsepower started his testing phase and once that was done, and horses found, cracks in the rear hub sprocket flange and a phone call Friday afternoon resulted in a declaration of “I won’t be able to make it Sunday”.  So who was the last person I expected to see alongside the road on the way to Byron?  You guessed it, Arnie.  We sailed by and came to as quick a stop as possible with the rig and wound up lending him a nitrogen tank and floor jack to deal with a flat tire on a borrowed truck.

Getting to the dragstrip we were pleasantly surprised to not see it packed like two weeks ago.  We got to the spot of choice and started getting ready.  A cell phone call and we were off in search of Arnie’s rider, whom he was supposed to meet at the track, but was obviously delayed.  So with a quick description of Dan McCarten off we went but lo and behold there he was, parked right next to us.  A quick briefing and off they went to rescue Arnie.

Arnie’s turbocharged Kawasaki

Having found a split intake plenum chamber, we opted to not change much else and see what that flaw’s correction got us.  The first run was a tire-spinning 10 second run, followed by more of the same, another 10.  I guess we had a bit more power than originally realized, and who knows how long the plenum had been cracked?  The third run was an 8.49 @ 165mph, which gave us something to work with, followed by an 8.50.

Working in the clutch department and putting 5 units of boost back in the motor was the next change.  This got us an 8.39 @ 168.43mph.  Getting closer.


Waiting on the line

A bit more clutch and then a change to a fresh can of VP Q16, as the one we were using had been opened in March of this year.  This gasoline I can relate to as it is very powerful and not the most stable, I understand.  The oxygen in this gasoline, by rumor, is somewhat related to the carbonation in soda pop, so the fresher the better.  It is just that the darned bike only uses a ½ quart or so of gasoline per run, so we don’t use it up fast enough.

The pre-run process was pretty much as normal, and using a bit more of the two-step before the lunch helped to build a bit more boost.  Now this thing called a two-step is a process whereby the engine’s computer, when an event switch (a button or lever, say) is activated, the ignition timing is retarded.  This limits the rpm that the motor will rev up to.  Some tuner cars are firing the motor as late as 10 degrees after top dead center, where the normal ignition timing is sees at 20 to 30 degrees before top dead center.  This ignites the gasoline that is in the exhaust system and it continues to burn in the turbocharger and out the tailpipe.  This can make for a hellacious racket and builds boost at the same time.  With our slider clutch it is a very fine line between building the boost and burning up the clutch.  We are still working on that.

Our two-step lets us leave with 5 psi of boost right now.  We will be working on that for the next time, but changing too many things at once usually results in a lack of knowledge of what did or didn’t work and why or why not?  Puzzlement and frustration in no small doses.

Three heads are better than one

Nick bumped into the beams and thumbed the button on the two-step, beginning the banging and fire.

Letting off the button, he accelerated out at what looks like a leisurely pace of a 1.445 second 60 foot time.  While the best of the day, it is still nowhere near where it needs to be.  The bike started to pick up speed shortly after the 60 foot clocks and by the 1/8 mile mark he was carrying a 143.98 mph speed.

The bike was squirming around, fishtailing a bit from the tire spinning, so I wasn’t at all prepared for what the boards showed us.  An 8.08 second pass at 170.92mph.  I was drop-jawed.   As in roadracing, often the best lap is the least spectacular.

This e.t. and speed has eclipsed anything we have been able to find on record for a Ducati in ¼ mile elapsed times by nearly .2 seconds, with the Dutch rider Herman Jollink holding the current record at 8.27 (but possibly a more recent 8.19?).  We can now safely say we have the World’s Quickest Ducati.  This was also done into a 30 mph headwind that the tower estimated cost .20 to .25 seconds in the e.t.

Timeslip from the 8.08 run
Timeslip from the 8.08 run

 Footage of the burnout and run, with some celebratory whoops near the end

We quickly returned to the trailer and heard that the track was closing earlier than usual due to the low turnout, so in keeping with our need to make “just one more” pass we hurried out to the line.

Nick started the bike and it was then I saw the liquid coming out of the middle of the bike and it looked like gas.  There was a fitting that had loosed on the inlet side of the fuel filter and Fred jetted back to the trailer and with a quick turn of the wrench staunched that leak.  Continuing on with the pass Nick brought it out and it started to take off again.  Unbeknownst to us, we had an issue with the oil vapor tank filling up and the venting system we are using isn’t up to the storage requirements of a boosted motor run 7 passes in a day without attention.  The incredibly slippery synthetic oil then made its way down the inner fender and applied itself to the tire’s surface.  This more than doubled the fun factor for Nick as the bike really started to move around and his foot came off the peg at about 500 feet out, well over 100 mph.  He gathered it in and at that point decided that was enough and shut it down. It was still and 8.41, but only 146mph.  Among the items to work on is a more effective tank and different vent line routings.

The end of the day is always anticlimactic and in keeping with our earlier process, we never leave on the best run.  There is always “one more” to show another weakness and give us something to work on.

notebook sketch of the bike being serviced - signed by nearly everyone who came to help!
Jacki Whisenant – notebook sketch of the bike being serviced (complete with seam down the middle) – signed by nearly everyone who came to help!

Loading up it was nice to spend that time with family and friends, and getting on the road meant getting home before dark.  I poured a cup of coffee and down the road we went.  I think I was the only one awake in the truck after 20 minutes or so, as everyone visibly relaxed.  Once on I-39 and headed north there was a little bit of talk and I regaled our newcomer, Steve Berg, with a history of my racing career that covered 43 years.  He was very polite and only fell asleep once, I believe.

It is just now sinking in what the significance of that run is and what it can mean to those who helped and supported us in this adventure.  Nick Moore as the rider and , Fred Weege as the electronics and Engine Management man, Jacki Whisenant doing the composites, paint and website/photography/illustrating, Adam Weege as our weather man Bill Shields keeps the shop open if we disappear suddenly and my wife for her seemingly endless patience and sense of humor.

We still have the next goal and while being the World’s Quickest Ducati is great, it is a fleeting thing, because there will always be someone quicker.  Our next goal is to be the first Ducati to cover the standing quarter mile in under seven seconds.  I think it can be done and with a motor that is nearly stock in its components.  That will be for the history books (if books still exist to record such things).

We will keep you posted and for the Bonneville sponsors, this one is for you!

Thank you!

Bill W.



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