Tuesday August 29
Six a.m. comes pretty early when sleep doesn’t come easily. Too much on the line, not enough time to make runs to get things sorted out. Waiting four years and meeting with the frustrations and delays tends to keep one a bit more tightly wound up. A midnight screaming fire alarm doesn’t help either.
Back to the truckstop, two bags of ice and head on out.
In line early to make a run, hoping for better.
It was at this time that we made the next tuning change. All the external ballast was taken off the turbo bike, harkening back to Hiro’s crewman’s comment the night before.
Getting out was a bit quicker as there were fewer competitors with the “Run What You Brung” having used their allotted runs and other record racers breaking or unwilling to continue due to breakage, track conditions or realization that the record they hoped for was out of reach for one reason or another.
This run was a bit different than the previous ones. There was still the shifting earlier than I should have and the vibration, but it wasn’t as bad. Touching the 160 mph range was encouraging but not comforting. An extra element of entertainment came as I entered the mile. I underestimated the pressure going into the plenum feeding the turbocharger and suddenly the delivery hose popped off the box. It proceeded to wave around inside the cockpit, looking a lot like the robot on “Lost in Space” when warning Will Robinson “Danger Danger”. Two cable ties and that was resolved.
Loading back up, we went back to staging and this is where the Swiss team our team truly intermingled.
Looking over at the back of the Swiss team’s transporter, I saw Juppo, the chief mechanic, working on a fuel pump looking device. Wandering over he was trying to explain that the pump had died and the bike wouldn’t run. Wondering what they were doing about it I saw a cylindrical object they had hooked into the fuel system and asked what it was. Come to find out it was a fuel pump from a world rally car. I asked where the pressure regulator was and got a blank look. So it was over to the trailer and drawing a fuel system diagram, I was constrained by the only word I knew of the parts was “pompa” (pump). So we hooked up a pressure gauge and turned on the switch and it showed 160 psi! That explained the brief two firing noise I heard when they tried to start it. This system needed 43 psi, not 160! So back in the trailer we go and dig out a pressure regulator and then into the mechanical injection box for fittings to hook it up. Fred and Nick did a masterful job of getting them a system that would at least get the bike down the track. The bike started up and ran decently, actually better than before as the fuel pressure was closer to the actual needs than the old system.
It was at this time that their bike spit out a glurp (technical term) of oil from the breather. The team felt they may have hurt a piston on their last run and evidently a bigger glurp occurred after they unloaded the bike in preparation to run it. Once the bike was running, I must admit I was distracted by the imminence of our next run.
Recharging the intercooler for this run was a task that was made more difficult by not knowing when you were likely to run. Ice melts and it is a ten minute task in 95 degree weather.
The intercooler consists of a three gallon tank behind the rider on our turbo bike that is filled with ice and water, leading to various pipes, tubing and a radiator of sorts. The purpose of this system is to cool the compressed intake air charge as it exits the turbocharger. We didn’t need the extra power, but the midrange torque and reduced likelihood of motor-hurting detonation was an incentive. This was also part of the new furniture in the new office.
The second run was better yet, and keeping to the very leftmost edge of the lane smoother salt was found. This entailed running within five feet of the flags, again not confidence inspiring. Still shifting too early I poked it up into sixth gear and realized that was a waste, and downshifted back to fifth and got after it again.
It was the first run where it didn’t feel like a crash was imminent, just possible.
Waiting for the guys to pick me up on the far end, it also came to notice that the whole bike was cooler and generally happier. Gentle ticking and groaning (not just from me) instead of the rapid noises and intense heat following the earlier runs indicated an overall happier platform. I am extremely fortunate to have a ride that is mechanically this forgiving.
It was a good feeling to have qualified for the record and needed to go to impound for scrutineering while servicing the bike for the record attempt.
There are very specific things you can change at this time and most others you can’t. The theory is that they want a virtually identical bike to make the record attempt after qualifying.
The tech inspector watched as the intercooler was recharged in preparation for the next run. Everyone was feeling pretty good, even if the performance and riding weren’t at the level I was hoping for.
While waiting for the call to go back downtrack to mile 8 to run back, the clouds began to build.
All of a sudden, the wind came up. One of the characteristics of the salt flats is that there is basically nothing to stop the weather as it blows across the terrain.
This was emphasized as easy-ups and various temporary shelter departed their locations.
Nick was showing Ralph from the Swiss team some of the parts we had that he may have wanted to use as they thought they had hurt their motor earlier in the day.
As the gusts really picked up I saw the Impound tent frame start a somersault towards the trailer. I stepped on the leg as it slid across the sand. Nick saw this coming and dragged Ralph inside the trailer just as a leg from the upper part of the frame came loose and put a big dent in the side of the trailer. After we corralled that mess, Nick went back to the pits to see about the rest of the equipment and the nitro bike. I couldn’t go anywhere as if you left impound before you were told, you were disqualified. It wouldn’t be the only time impound did us this week.
The winds took it up another notch and I saw flags disappearing from the track, but stayed right there.
All of a sudden the end of an impound aisle marker pulled up out of the salt. This had someone’s name on it if not subdued as it was four foot piece of half-inch diameter steel rod on the end of twenty feet of crime scene tape. It sailed around on the end of that tether and swung towards the trailer.
A bit of dancing to miss the steel and grabbing the tape tether got things pointed the right way. I didn’t want another dent in the trailer …or me.
As the wind subsided a bit I asked the tech director and then the sanction head about the record run and they officially called the event for the day.
That meant we could go back to pits where we would find who knows what.
As I got back to our pit area it looked pretty messed up. I didn’t see a lot of our support equipment and watched the end of the nitro bike disappear into a trailer across the lane.
As we were able to gather ourselves up, the damage assessment began.
The easy up had tried to take flight and gotten a bit bent up before our team could get the canvas top off it. Eventually Fred and Mike were able to deal with it, with everyone else grabbing what they could.
As the winds died down, we decided to put our bikes in our trailer to be able to control a bit of our destiny the next morning. One of the aspects of this mess was the willingness of our neighbors across the lane to put our stuff out of harm’s way in their trailer. This was the team who had come zooming through our pits the day before. People helping each other always seems to be the way out on the salt.
Our plans for the next day seemed to be set as another qualifying attempt on the turbo was in order to finish the business with that bike.
It reminded me a bit of the statements of the military. Hours of boredom followed by minutes of sheer panic.
Coming off the salt, and heading to the motel, we brought the parts Nick had been showing Ralph when he nearly was mugged by the tent frame and George Lulling, ever the dependable Boswell, transported the spare motor.
As we got to the CarQuest Auto Parts store in Wendover, we were greeted by the sight of the Swiss dismantling their motor, parts everywhere. Ralph was looking rather concerned as they were in jeopardy of loosing their entire expedition if the motor damage was unrepairable. He brightened when we arrived as we were the bearer of parts he and Nick were perusing earlier and a motor…if needed.
We were greeted by the Mayor of Wendover, who is also the owner of the auto parts store, and learned his venue had been used by quite a few famous teams over the years. He was a Wendover native and had actually met Burt Munro on one of his expeditions to America. Flies were a problem at first, soon remedied by the Mayor shooting them with his salt gun, an air-powered salt crystal shotgun (of diminutive size). His gift of a commemorative 100 years of salt racing poster will be going up in the shop.
Nick and Fred got together with Juppo and determined that once the motor was disassembled, that there wasn’t any damage, amazingly enough. The glurp of oil in both instances was caused by too full a crankcase caused by the overenergetic (160 psi) fuel pump putting gas in the oil. Once that was established and the fact that there weren’t any of the tools needed to reassemble the motor in the Swiss spares kit, Nick went back out to the trailer with Ralph and rounded up the necessary devices, and returned the unused parts. Decades of experience with blown and turbo motors finally works for us?
Later, as I was finishing my shower-related ablutions I noticed a bruise on the left side of my neck and another on my thigh. I knew it wasn’t my dear wife having done that and put it down to the helmet buckle and exhaust pipe mischiefs on previous rides. Tighter helmet strap was the solution to one, and hang on tighter for the other.