First day on the Salt (for real).
Meeting at the Suburban and van at 7 a.m., we all headed for the salt, everyone a bit jazzed with anticipation.
Coming off the interstate and heading out to the boat landing, we stopped for ice at the truckstop and headed on out.
As mentioned earlier, the sunrise on the salt is a memorable experience and Adam Weege got a good view of that for us here.
Well, time to saddle up and have at it. The track layout was different than anything we had run on before and the scanned map shows the basic layout. The premise is that the timed mile is the same track for every record, for both National and FIM records.
The specific measured mile is shown between the green 5 mile flag and the black 6 mile flag. Each rider would enter the track at different mile markers, 1.5 to 4, depending on their speeds. The faster you go, the farther away you start, to allow the needed real estate to get up to speed, so that you are at your maximum, or near that at the entrance of the measured mile (mile 5). You are hell-bent for leather through that mile and then roll off the throttle and when safe, turn off to your left and aim for the blue access road. Clearing that road allows the next rider to begin their speed run.
It was decided that the big red bike would go first as it required the least prep and simplest process (put gas in it an go).
One aspect of this track arrangement is that you have to go out .2 miles, make a 90 degree turn and then head on down track. Now for most bikes it isn’t a big deal, but for a 12 foot long missile, that isn’t the case. I guess the testing at Byron Dragway was for some good after all, as a few turns were needed to get around.
Getting settled in line was a part of the deal. You went to pre-staging, then were dispersed to your respective departure miles. Well, while the personnel and racers were a joy to be around, a single course and administrative issues caused the first run to be a process that took over seven hours.
We finally were ready to go at 5:00 pm, now this is after getting there at 7 in the morning. It is hard to stay focused and positive for that length of time, but you take what cards you are dealt.
Once underway, the turn onto the course wasn’t the issue it could have been and getting settled was a bit more of an effort than anticipated and here we are dealing with a new seating position, front bodywork and instrument locations. Not being the naturally-gifted rider, the test was just beginning.
Going by the mile four marker I was only in second gear shifting into third. Time to get after it if some speed was hoped for by mile 5.
Trying to settle into the bodywork made the visibility shortcoming apparent. You can’t tell very much on the dragstrip, and seeing 3/8 of a mile seemed adequate…..wrong. At this point the inflexibilty of an aging spinal column made itself known. Even with stretching and limbering up it wasn’t enough to allow a good angle and only being able to see 3/8 of a mile ahead isn’t enough. So we peek up over the top of the fairing and try to maintain centering on the lane. It was at this time that the roughness of the lane in the mid to right side showed itself. Usually you will hear back from the early runners, but owing to a 7 hour delay, few if any were back in line as staging closed an hour after we ran that day.
I encountered some of the roughest track conditions in my life. I have raced flat track, motocross and any number of types of competition where rough surfaces were encountered, but this took it all. If you shake your head as hard and fast as you can, you have an idea how the visibility was. Finishing the run through the mile and looked for a soft spot to land, I haven’t been as terrified riding something I didn’t subsequently crash. That is one of newly-discovered traits of a land speed run. Usually you screw up and are nearly immediately rewarded with a piledriver to the ground. Here the terror was stretched out and savored. The speed? 106.8 mph. My slowest run on the salt ever. As a side note, the entire bike was so hot it took gloves to handle it as it was loaded up in the trailer after the run to transport it back to the pits.
Later on we were told that the two months without rain had made the salt harder than normal. Speed Week, two weeks before had suffered from similar issues. The high spots were too hard for the I-Beam drag to knock down and some spots were even hand-dressed. It was acknowledged by most if not all as the roughest salt they had ever encountered, and some of those had been coming for decades. I know it was that way for me by a lot.
A decision was needed after this run as to what was going to happen. Mixed feelings as to whether to try it again or not were going through my mind as I reviewed the run with the team. Embarrassed, scared, angry and still thinking what can be done to remedy the issues.
This was the end of a day that needed to be reviewed carefully. The lack of suspension, not having ridden the chassis in four years and the changes between the last ride and now, combined with the inability to adapt as quickly as needed to the conditions on track all came into play.
Back for sustenance and contemplation as the sun went down.