Salt Addiction Racin’ Jason McVicar

January 23, 2009
Rocky Robinson
Rocky Robinson
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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.

Robert Carp  Jack Williams  Dave Owens  Jason  Scott Guthrie  and Jason’s dad  Sam McVicar. Note: bike is in “naked” form…Jason’s favorite way to ride.
Robert Carp, Jack Williams, Dave Owens, Jason, Scott Guthrie, and Jason’s dad, Sam McVicar. Note: bike is in “naked” form…Jason’s favorite way to ride.

I guess the only guys (or gals) I envy on the salt are the top runners in the sit-on class. Open bikes with turbos; most with Hayabusa painted on the side. Land speed veteran Scott Guthrie has pointed out on more than one occasion: “There are two great periods in land speed racing…BH and AH: Before Hayabusa and After Hayabusa.” No other brand has dominated land speed racing like Suzuki with their Goliath engine.

Unlike the more complicated streamliners that require near-perfect conditions to run, these street machines can make multiple passes with little more than refueling and minor tweaks to the engine and suspension. The checklist for the Ack Attack streamliner between runs is nearly two pages long. I’ve seen some of the Hayabusa riders finish a pass and ride directly to the staging area ready to do it again. By the time I’ve got my five-point harness secure, the air feed and communications cords plugged into my helmet and the intercooler serviced with dry ice and water, that same rider has moved to the front of the line and is now spitting salt in our face as he accelerates down the course…again.

One of the best in the business is Jason McVicar. His track record speaks for itself, having over 30 land speed records to his credit. The most significant, he says, is the 250.135 mph record in 1650MPS-BF. This was the first SCTA open bike record over 250 mph. “I’m also proud of our 253.297 mph record that we set in 2008.” He has every right to be. This is the FASTEST record at Bonneville on an open bike…

Jason and Scott Guthrie together at Maxton. Scott runs three teams covering the west  central and eastern regions.
Jason and Scott Guthrie together at Maxton. Scott runs three teams covering the west, central and eastern regions.

Bonneville isn’t the only place you’ll find Jason setting the pace. He also competes at El Mirage, (dry lake) Maxton, and Goliad, Texas. On any given day he’s the guy to beat at any one of them. Jason has a stable of bikes to compete on. Some are his and some belong to racing legend, Scott Guthrie. (Guthrie has 68 Bonneville records to his credit and 275 more at Maxton. He also holds the two-wheel track record at Goliad at just over 251 mph!)

I asked Jason how he and Mr. Guthrie hooked up. “A fellow in a goofy looking blue hat came up to me after I set my first record in 1998. The fellow’s name was Guthrie and I had just broken his class record. He said to me in his ‘let me tell you’ tone, ‘Congratulations on breaking my record…it was a soft one.’ That day a friendship started that turned into a sponsorship and a mentorship that means more to me than all of the records I have set and will ever set.” In his next breath I realized what a class act Jason McVicar really was: “When it comes down to it after the records have been set, the cones picked up and everyone has gone home, it’s the people and relationships formed on the salt that matter most.” —pretty cool stuff, Jason…

Their first record together was in August of 2004. Riding Guthrie’s Yamaha R1 on nitrous, Jason ran 215.592 mph. Their latest record is the 253.297 mph record previously mentioned. Other than the top three streamliners which are now running in the 350-360 mph range, there is no faster two-wheeled machine actively competing on the salt.

It would be fair to say that sometimes McVicar’s hard on equipment.
It would be fair to say that sometimes McVicar’s hard on equipment.

During that same meet, Speed Week of 2008, after proving to the world his open bike supremacy, Jason made another pass trying to beat his own record. At somewhere over 240 mph his rear tire came apart, possibly from running over debris on the race course.

“I felt a vibration and the rear end began moving around. Before I could roll off the throttle the bike went hard left and I was thrown off to the right. I had just enough time to turn my body and tuck my left shoulder in before I hit the ground. Initial contact with the salt twisted my body violently and then I started tumbling. I pulled my arms toward my chest and tried to move around to prevent burns while I was sliding. I came to a stop sitting upright about 10 feet from the bike.” The mangled machine burst into flames.

This is how Jason looked at the Bub meet two weeks after his crash. Those are friction burns through his leathers from sliding on the salt at over 200 mph.
This is how Jason looked at the Bub meet two weeks after his crash. Those are friction burns through his leathers from sliding on the salt at over 200 mph.

“I laid down and did an inventory: toes wiggled, arms moved, eyes focused, brain didn’t hurt. After that I knew I was okay.” Five months later Jason is still healing from the impact that he describes as “twisting my back like a corkscrew,” He appreciates the help he’s received along the way and would like to thank the El Mirage Ladies Auxiliary for their help after the crash. “I thought of hanging my leathers up but I jumped back on the bike two weeks after the crash. I drove solo 17 hours to the salt and ran 245 at the Bub meet.” I was there to witness his return and was amazed he was even walking, let alone racing at the very place that nearly took his life.

I asked him who his main competition was. “There are so many classes today you are typically racing the record. The tough thing about LSR (land speed racing) is that you have to beat the fastest record in your class ever, not just the top time of the day or meet. The weather and salt conditions are so critical to running fast that you may wait years to get two good passes. LSR is a patient, thinking man’s game…”

The “Great White Dyno” awaits
The “Great White Dyno” awaits

Oddly, Jason prefers running in the “naked” class (un-faired) which requires you to manhandle your machine to stay on top of it. In 2005 he ran 235 mph naked at the Bub meet running out the back door at 243 on GPS. Without the fairing the bike is less aerodynamic and is buffeted by the wind and much more difficult to hold onto. Bill Warner has since run 246 mph naked at Maxton and is king of the naked bikes.

Other competitors like Richard Assen, John Noonan and Leslie Porterfield will have their work cut out for them if they plan to steal away bragging rights as fastest on the salt on an open bike. For now that title belongs to Jason, who isn’t finished yet…

-Rocky
www.rocky-robinson.com

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