Denis Manning has been etching his name indelibly in the Salt at Bonneville over the last 30 years in his pursuit of the two-wheeled land speed record.
Denis Manning bleeds salt. For 30 years, he has devoted himself to the pursuit of the two-wheeled land speed record on the Bonneville Salt Flats. He has tasted the champagnes of glory on several occasions, but has also tasted the bitter pill of defeat more than his share as well. Last September, with Chris Carr at its helm, Manning’s BUB 7 streamliner rocketed across the Salt at a blistering 367.382 mph during the Land Speed Shootout, eclipsing the mark of 360.913 mph held by Rocky Robinson and the Ack Attack team. Motorcycle USA met the man responsible for the World’s Fastest Motorcycle and got a chance to talk to Manning about the BUB 7 streamliner at the recent Easyriders Show in Sacramento, California.
Motorcycle USA: Anybody who has been out to the Salt or knows anything about land speed records and the pursuit of the 400 mph barrier will know this man. Denis Manning is the driving force behind the BUB 7, the ‘fastest motorcycle on earth.’ You keep setting the record and have been in the industry a long time now, so what keeps you motivated?
Denis Manning: I think that motivation comes from way, way back. When I was a kid, my folks camped all over the western United States and on one of these trips we were going through Bonneville and I saw Mickey Thompson go 400 mph (Mickey Thompson was the first American to break the 400 mph barrier when he went 406.60 mph in 1960), and when I went back to school, while other kids wanted to be a Mickey in the outfield of the New York Yankees , I guarantee you which Mickey I wanted to be. That was my inspiration but Bonneville has always been the Holy Grail of Racing. If you look at all of the famous racers, Sterling Moss, Phil Hill, Breedlove, Arfons, it goes on and on and on. They’ve always said “OK, I’ve raced, but I want to have my go at Bonneville.” It’s the only place on the planet where you say “Here it is, take it as fast as you can make it go.” And that gets in your blood.
Here’s a peek inside the world of Denis Manning. His BUB 7 streamliner utilizes a three liter, turbocharged, 16 valve V4 engine that produces a claimed 500 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque @ 8500 rpm.
Motorcycle USA: Tell me a little about ‘The Qwest,’ or breaking the 400mph barrier on a two-wheeled vehicle.
Denis Manning: Four-hundred miles an hour has always been in the back of my mind. Breedlove went 400 miles-per-hour. Mickey Thompson – 400 miles-per-hour. There’s never been two wheels go 400 miles-per-hour and that’s been ‘The Qwest,’ but we’re going at it a little at a time. We’re going so fast this is almost half the speed of sound, within ten miles of half the speed of sound, we are going so fast, air is so dense that it’s crazy. People talk about a really bad tornado – at 100 mph. We’re going three-and-a-half times that fast. You know what it will do (a tornado) to a car, you’ve seen what it will do to a tree. Know what we’re going through. It’s a remarkable amount of energy, so what we’re trying to do is go at it a little bit at time. It would be foolish to try it all at one time.
Motorcycle USA: So what barriers do you think you’ll have to overcome to get those last 33-odd miles to crack it?
Denis Manning: Well, the first one was tires. We had a machine that was way beyond the tires that we could find. So we collaborated with Goodyear, actually paid ‘em, Goodyear was kind enough to make us some tires. That was the first step in this ladder. We had a machine, we had horsepower, the thing handles well, the tires was the big deal. OK, we’ve got tires behind us now. The minute we had tires, look what we did, we went 17 mph faster, Boom! Just like that! We were very apprehensive about it. So now, we’ve gone that fast, we’ve retained the record. What we’re in fact going to do is we go back on the dynanometer, make sure that we can make more horsepower reliably. We want to make a lot of horsepower but we want to be sure that we don’t hurt the machine or Chris (pilot Chris Carr) doing it. We’ve been into the wind tunnel, we’ve done a lot of stress testing of the machine, we are trying to put behind us all the question marks, then we’ll go forward.
Motorcycle USA: We’ve got a correspondent called Rocky Robinson that also goes out to the Salt (Robinson held the record Manning and Carr just broke), so any words for Rocky?
Denis Manning: Competition is funny stuff. I can empathize with Rocky in fact. I’ve had the record, I’ve lost it, and then I wanted it back. I lost it, then I won it back. I know what burns in them. Having the record is really a remarkable thing, but losing it is a much more powerful thing. It’s like somebody packed their bags and left. They’ll be back, but there are other players. Sam Wheeler is a player. There are at least five other machines that are being built that are players. I’d like to encourage them, but at the same time, I’d like to warn them that theoretical streamliners get theoretical records every theoretical time. The best thing to do is show me a time slip.
• Craig Breedlove reached 407.45 mph in the Spirit of America on August 5, 1963 at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, earning him the land speed record.
• Arthurt Eugene ‘Art’ Arfons held the land speed record three times in 1964-65 with his jet-powered car the Green Monster.
• Stirling Moss was a hugely popular British race car driver who competed in Formula One and rally racing from 1948 to 1962.
• Phil Hill was the only American-born driver to win the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship (1961).