Salt Addiction 2009 BUB Speed Trials

October 6, 2009
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.

Max Lambky and his crew were all smiles after vowing to return to take care of unfinished business
Max Lambky and his crew were all smiles after vowing to return to take care of “unfinished business”

Max Lambky considered pulling the plug on his racing efforts after the 2009 Bub meet. He’s a part of the makeup of Bonneville that somehow wouldn’t be the same without him. Like Vesco, Teresi, Akatiff and Manning, Max knows that building streamliners isn’t easy. Building one to balance on two wheels utilizing two vintage Vincent motors built before many of his competitors were even born, borderlines impossible.

That’s why we all love Max. He’s committed to the Vincent marque and the challenge of making it work. I caught up with Max and his rider Don Angel in their pit shortly after Black Lightning made possibly her last run. The primary chain came apart as Don shifted into the third cog at somewhere around 250 mph. The hi-vo chain wedged itself between the gear cluster breaking the case. Hartmut Weidelich, who shares riding duties with Don, couldn’t hide the disappointment in his face.

A broken center case put an end to Maxs bid for worlds fastest motorcycle and streamliner sidecar. I will return  was Maxs last words.
A broken center case put an end to Max’s bid for world’s fastest motorcycle and streamliner sidecar. “I will return,” was Max’s last words.

I asked Don if he would take us along on Black Lightning’s final ride: “It‘s Monday, around 9 a.m. We take off without a push car. At about 3300 rpm the bike comes to life and accelerates hard. The salt’s wet but traction isn’t a problem for the Vincent. I shift into second at 4900 rpm – back on throttle.”

Here’s where things get a bit interesting: “I look down for a second and when I lift my head I’m heading for the course markers on the right. I go off course, correct back to center. I reach up to turn the water on to cool the clutch and chain. That’s when I drift off the left side of the course!” I saw the surprise in Max’s eyes and realized he was hearing this for the first time. “It takes me a while to download,” Don says in his defense. Great comeback. “At 4800 I shift to third, when the power comes on the chain snaps.”

The damage was pretty severe. I looked at Max and asked if he really was going to throw in the towel. He asked what I thought he should do. “You’re too close to going real fast. Hartmut went 275 mph in only second gear. Don just ran 250. If you ever get this thing running in the top of high gear, we all might be in trouble.”

Four-time US National Speedway Champion and 1996 World Champion Billy Hamill poses with his long track Speedway bike.
Four-time US National Speedway Champion and 1996 World Champion Billy Hamill poses with his long track Speedway bike.

Max smiled, knowing I was right. Apparently his wife already told him they better make room in the garage for Black Lightning because it sounded like there was more work to be done. “I shall return,” I heard somewhere in the distance as I grabbed my notes and headed for the next subject. Max couldn’t see it, but I was smiling too.

From old salts to young blood, I met up with Billy Hamill, four-time US National Champion and 1996 world Speedway Champion. Staying true to his sport, Billy was riding a long track speedway bike with a laid down Jawa engine running on alcohol sporting a two-speed gearbox. His target was a 145.2 record. In just his first outing on the salt Billy ran 144.2 mph—so close. He and his wrench, Geoff Arnold of Joker Machine, vow to come back next year and finish where they left off.

The Vision One Racing Team.Scott Knudson crashed the Go Go Gadget racer  causing minimal damage. The team made several more passes later on.
Scott Knudson crashed the Go Go Gadget racer, causing minimal damage. The team made several more passes later on.

I watched the Lamberd brothers entry, Vision-One, a roll bar equipped Go-Go Gadget racer spinning the rear tire as it left the start. Scott Knudsen, a former sprint car racer and American Indy Car Series competitor ran the unique machine through its paces trying to post the fastest speed of the four-rider team. Vision-One probably makes more runs in a single meet than any other machine. Brothers Gary and Robin, Willie Cooper, and Scott Knudsen all share the experience and the job of building and maintaining their high-speed racer. Unfortunately, Scott experienced severe fifth-gear wheelspin inside the measured mile, went sideways, and highsided, spinning 360° on his side while sliding a full half-mile down course.

Rider and machine were okay, though both were packed in salt. Back in the pits the bike was hosed down and Scott was docked an “Atta Boy” for his efforts. Each rider noticed a handling problem at speed that hadn’t existed in previous years. They narrowed it down to a new nose cone mounted to the front suspension. At speed it causes the bike to fishtail A very unlikable trait! Scott’s racing experience proved beneficial, posting the only runs over 160 mph, and that being after he’d already gone down at speed!

Jim Meyers twin engine Kawasaki powered sidecar left with a new record.
Jim Meyer’s twin engine Kawasaki powered sidecar left with a new record.
Jims other sidecar  disguised as a KTM  and his colorful rider  Michael Kitt.
Jim’s other sidecar, disguised as a KTM, and his colorful rider, Michael Kitt.

I came upon a pair of beautiful sidecars, one sporting a pair of Kawasaki 636cc engines dressed in orange and silver paint, the other splashed in a deeper, reddish orange with black trim baring the KTM marque. The rider of the latter wore a matching reddish-orange Mohawk suggesting he was as colorful as his three-wheeled mount. Jim Meyer designed and built the pair, and both have records to their credit. Michael Kitt drove the KTM-attired Kawasaki but holed the pistons before making it through the measured mile. Jim had better luck with the twin-engine effort, setting a new record just over the 150 mark.

Seven streamliners were in attendance at this year’s event. The mighty Buddfab impressed as usual, running 155 mph with a 100cc motor, then a best run average over 185 mph with a 125cc engine. Sam Wheeler’s EZ Hook streamliner had a best run of 323.627 mph. The Bub team, with Chris Carr at the controls, struggled with engine problems early on, but eventually posted an impressive first run of 351 mph. Chris had concerns about a “light feeling” front end, and less grip with the team’s new Goodyear tires.

A second attempt nearly ended in disaster as Chris forgot to retract the skids and struggled to stay on course after releasing from the tow vehicle. He finally aborted the run about a mile and a half into his attempt. Leo Hess made the same mistake in 2008, resulting in a devastating crash that destroyed the Kuryakyn streamliner, requiring Leo to be airlifted to a nearby trauma center.

BUB’s final attempt was an impressive 355 mph run. On deceleration the streamliner caught fire, causing substantial damage to the machine and ending their hopes of breaking the Top 1 Ack Attack’s record of 360.913 mph.

Enjoy the ride…

(Update: Only weeks later the BUB streamliner returned to Bonneville at the Land Speed Shootout and broke the Ack Attack record. Chris Carr piloted the red streamliner to a remarkable 367.382 mph average – breaking the standing mark by more than six mph. The new world record is pending official ratification by the FIM.)


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