Salt Addiction Land Speed Racing

April 16, 2008
Rocky Robinson
Rocky Robinson
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

Having raced everything from Flat Track to Trials, Rocky Robinson now pilots streamliners at the Bonneville Salt Flats and currently holds the ultimate land speed record at 376 mph aboard the Ack Attack streamliner.

Few people know the thrills of piloting a motorcycle capable of 350 mph  but Rocky Robinson is one of them. The former World s Fastest Rider gives us the inside scoop in his Salt Addiction s column.
Few people know the thrills of piloting a motorcycle capable of 350 mph, but Rocky Robinson is one of them. The former World’s Fastest Rider gives us the inside scoop in his Salt Addiction’s column.

If ever there was a time to follow land speed racing, now is that time. Who’d have thought it was possible to travel at speeds over 350 mph on two wheels! The crazy thing is, this number is expected to be toppled soon, and there are three, maybe four current contenders capable of doing it. has allowed me the opportunity to share this world with you each month from a racer’s point of view. We’ll be following the supreme battle between Chris Carr and BUB Seven, the current FIM world record holder; Sam Wheeler and the Kawasaki E-Z-Hook streamliner – technically the fastest motorcycle on the planet; my ride, the Top One Ack Attack twin-engine Hayabusa-powered streamliner, and Max Lambky’s twin-engine Vincent.

We’ll follow some of the fastest “sit-on” machines like John Noonan, who has gone over 260 mph on a turbocharged Hayabusa, as well as some really fast sidecars and a 50cc streamliner that has already gone over 133 mph!

I was introduced to land speed racing by Denis Manning, developing and driving Tenacious II, which holds the fastest pass in Australia at over 289 mph set in March of 2000. I was also involved in the development of the BUB Seven, Manning’s current machine. I got to do all the fun stuff in the early stages of development like seizing engines, catching on fire and countless runs with parachute failures and near misses. This is all part of the process, and I’m sure every team has had their share of mishaps.

At season’s end in 2005, Manning and I parted ways. Mike Akatiff and his crew were the latest buzz in land speed racing, having a new machine with tons of horsepower throwing down big numbers right out of the gate. In March of 2006, they competed at Lake Gairdner, in Australia. Unfortunately, conditions that year were substandard and they were only able to muster a 249 mph average through the lights.

Back home, Mike contacted me and asked what I thought about driving the Top One Ack Attack streamliner. I was thrilled that he called, and decided to take a closer look. The layout and design were quite different to what I was used

Testing at a Nevada airstrip.  note the rear tire spinning on the asphalt
Robinson’s audition for the Ack Attack job came during some test runs at a Nevada airstrip, where the Californian smoked rubber from one side of the runway to the other.

to. The BUB machines relied heavily on computerized controls, pushing buttons to make things happen. The Ack Attack was less complex: you shifted with your foot, you steered with handlebars, and it had a twist grip throttle. It was more like a traditional motorcycle than the over-complicated machines of my past.

We decided to set up a “test day” at an airstrip in Nevada. The strip was only 1 1/3 miles long. The Ack Attack was designed to run flat out on a course anywhere from 7-12 miles in length. From a dead start I smoked the tires and blasted from one end to the other and back again. We did this like 15 times, and the bike ran flawless each time. It was a kick!

We left the airstrip feeling good about our arrangement. I was comfortable in the machine and got along great with Mike and his crew-and they seemed happy with my driving skills. I guess you could say I passed the audition…

After a quick shakedown at one of the biggest LSR events of the year, Bonneville Speed Week, (which netted us the fastest recorded speed to date on two wheels at over 338 mph) we felt we were ready. We arrived at the International Motorcycle Speed Trials in September of 2006 ready for our first official attempt. We were the first streamliner to run and netted a two way average of 342.797 mph right off the trailer, upping the old record by more than 20 mph! In our first official record attempt as a team, the world land speed record was ours.

John Jans prepares the Bub machine for battle.
The Red Sox have the Yankees, the Celtics have the Lakers, and the Ack Attack has the BUB Seven (above) – the current world-record holder with AMA Flat Track great Chris Carr at the controls.

Two days later Carr worked his magic taking Seven through the paces and upping the record to 350. The recent addition of a turbocharger and a new engine development budget provided by Ford seemed to be paying off. We struck back with a 349 run, thinking with a little added boost, we could be back on top. Unfortunately, mechanical gremlins in the drive train brought our meet to a premature end.

Sam Wheeler was next up, taking full advantage of the best salt conditions any of us have seen in the last decade, posting a mind-blowing 355 mph pass. Unfortunately his front tire came apart at the end of the run, putting the little liner on its side. Sam was uninjured, but the damage to the streamliner was too severe to continue.

History was made as three teams surpassed the 16-year record of 322 mph held by Dave Campos in the Easyriders streamliner.

The Top One Ack Attack rolled 12 times before coming to rest. The open cockpit took in huge amounts of salt.
Not many have crashed a motorcycle going over 300 mph, but Rocky Robinson has and walked away from the wreckage.

In 2007 poor salt conditions and a shortened course meant the new record was virtually untouchable. We made a gallant attempt with a 300 mph first pass – the top time of the meet. Our return run was met with disaster, crashing at over 300 mph through the lights! The Ack Attack tumbled 12 times, ripping the canopy from the cockpit and causing severe damage to the machine.

2008 looks to be one of those years where anything can happen. Wind tunnel testing and increased engine development should see the BUB team stronger than ever. Sam Wheeler has a solid aluminum front wheel that he can run if a tire doesn’t become available in time, and he too has had an entire season to develop more horsepower for his already potent green machine. Max Lambky and his Vincent Streamliner are showing promise and will return much improved.

Damage to the machine was severe. The team would regroup and rebuild. Better  stronger  faster...
Damage to the machine was severe. The team would regroup and rebuild. Better, stronger, faster…

As for us, Mike and the crew are in the process of rebuilding the Top One Ack Attack from the ground up. This affords us the chance to make improvements every step of the way. We’ve yet to run using 100% available horsepower, which is the strong point of our program. Given the right conditions, it’s possible to see one of the teams exceed 400 mph. This is a showdown you won’t want to miss…

Enjoy the ride.

– Rocky

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