Monday August 28, 2017
Meeting at the vehicles at 6 a.m. would give us an extra hour to deal with the incredibly slow pace of making the hopefully speedy runs.
Getting back to the trailer, the unloading process began. Out came two motors, pit bike, coolers, stands and the injected bike. Checking to be certain there wasn’t anything left behind we needed, it was off down the salt to staging and try it again.
The lack of response to the conformity we needed to the exceedingly rough track surface was to look for some sort of compliance in the rear end of the bike. The easiest and least disruptive change we could make was to lower the tire pressures. While this gave a bit more spring, it was hard to tell if it was enough. Only one way to tell, send Bill out to see.
In line again for hours, it was seemingly forever before we had a chance to go out again.
It was during this interval that we met the Swiss team. They were running a Ducati Turbo 999 in the unfaired class and seemed to be having a grand old time. Their bike sounded a bit odd on fire-up and transition from idle to full throttle, but we had enough on our plate that it passed me by for the most part.
Heading out again, it was said that the left side of the lane was better than the middle or right.
Making the turn and heading down track, it was easier to get settled in, but it was still a new office and I wasn’t quite comfortable with where the furniture was and the light switch was in a slightly different position.
Going by mile 4, it felt better, but shook like hell, even more than the run yesterday. Peeking up over the windscreen to try and see, it was like being hit with a board in the face. I had never experienced the sensation with the old bodywork. It was a bit breezy, but not such a sharply defined sensation.
Entering the measured mile again, I looked ahead and saw a tan stained area running across the track and wondered what it may be and was rewarded with a bottoming of the suspension and a huge bang coming from the back of the bike. Discussing the track conditions with TR who was working the downtrack supervision I was assured it was only a stain, to which I took exception. I was asked the next day what I thought about it and commented on it being much better and he seemed relieved. TR is the SCTA official who came racing after me when they heard the manifold explosion two miles away.
This turned out to be a 150 mph plus run, but was not a confidence builder even with the increase. Back to the pits and more cogitation.
It was time to get the other bike out on the track. Loading up the nitro bike we headed out.
Once in staging, it was wait, wait, wait. One of the benefits of this was the opportunity to meet and get to know your fellow sufferers. It here I met up again with Pete and Jackie Hill. For the record, these are two of the most iconic racers still pursuing the passion in America. I first ran into them in 1982, when we were just beginning our professional drag racing careers. The third race we ran was the Black Hills Classic at Sturgis South Dakota. It was a race we decided to run as we were doing OK in the points chase with the AMA-Dragbike Series and Elmer Trett was unlikely to be there. We had our turbo Kawasaki ridden by Steve Suter and had just finished tearing the battery and related wiring off the rear bulkhead in the semi-finals, but suffering less bad luck than our opponent, we won and got the chance to go to the finals. Pete had advanced up his side of the ladder and we ran each other for all the marbles. Steve got out on Pete and led to the stripe. It was not a popular win with the Harley-oriented spectators, and we loaded up quickly, collected our winnings, and left.
Well Pete still looks pretty darned good and true to form, was running a Harley Knucklehead, his trademark platform over five decades. Having a chance to catch up with them led to a few hours of revisiting, learning from them and a case of sunburn on the back of my legs.
Then it was Nick’s turn at the track and we got the bike running and worked at getting enough heat in the motor and finally it was his turn. Sounding decent on the leave, he headed down track.
We ran back to the Suburban and listened on the radio. Nick knew that anything approaching 1300 degrees on the exhaust gas temperatures necessitated a turn-out to save the motor. It was piston-killing temperatures that derailed our efforts the last time out.
Heading down track to retrieve him, we heard he turned out in the middle of the mile. Fearing for the worst, we saw him and picked him up. Asking why the early exit, the word “Rough” wasn’t adequate. I saw the same look on his face that I am sure I had after my runs.
Apparently taking the ten psi out of both tires wasn’t enough.
We were right back where we were yesterday at the end of the day.
Returning to the pits we were informed that a collision had occurred. While we were in the staging lanes, a competitor from across the lane had come through the slot vacated by the trailer on her way to the staging lanes. The variable not accounted for was the presence of a side car on their bike. As the corner was rounded, the sidecar hit the backup motor for the nitro bike, sending it rolling towards the turbo. This upset the sidecar bike, causing a case of “whiskey throttle”, (a new term I never heard before). As you may guess, the throttle was pulled wide open, sending the bike into the side of a Lincoln SUV. A complete trip down the side of the vehicle damaged virtually every panel and upset the sidecar. George Lulling, whom was mentioned before ran over and set the bike upright and saw to the errant pilot.
The irony was that the SUV was the racer’s wife’s car and had just gotten out of the body shop with the admonition “don’t wash it as the paint will be soft for a bit”. Evidently too soft to stand up to the motorcycle impact. It was someone we got to know in staging later on with a beautiful Harley sidecar.
That was about enough excitement for me that day, thank you.
Seeking out dinner that evening, my wife, Patty, and I went to Pizza Hut after buying drinks and salty snacks at Smith’s store.
It was here that we ran into Hiro Koiso and his crew. Hiro is someone whose intense devotion to land speed racing can be seen in the images of personal physical sacrifice and his willingness to return again and again. This year he was running a 3000cc supercharged creation of his own making. He had made a return run of over 217 mph that day with no rear suspension, which immediately got my attention.
As we went to sit down, I had to congratulate him on his run that day. A quiet “thank you” was the response.
After dinner we were all getting ready to go when the big man on the crew came over and asked if we were planning to return the next day. I responded in the affirmative, as no one was having an easy time of it, especially those of us with no rear suspension. I asked him “How does Hiro get across the salt?” His response was that Hiro floats across the salt. It was then that a dim bulb went on. You can’t float if you weigh too much. Hmmmmmm.
It was also an opportunity to go to a “Legends Gathering” in Wendover. This was a group of legendary competitors called upon by Tom Anderson (nicknamed Santa Clause) to recount their historic and present accomplishments. Among this year’s group were notables like Dave Perewitz, Al Lamb, Jay Allen, Pete and Jackie Hill and Santa Claus. This was a hugely amusing two hours spent with some amazing people. We were in the front row of course and occasionally treated to some direct interaction.
This was one of the best things to do during the event and there is no excuse to miss this event in the future as more and more of the legends are not able return for one reason or another.