Salt Addiction: Jennifer Robertson

March 3, 2011
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.

Jennifer at speed somewhere above 200 mph.
From a Honda X50 Mini Trail (below) to reaching speeds in excess of 200 mph, Jennifer Robertson has made it her mission to push the limits on two wheels.
The bike that started it all  Jennifers Honda Z50 Mini Trail. She still has it and it still runs.

Our protagonist had the nerve to race her dirt bike around the back yard in the early morning hours waking neighbors while dodging fences and other landscape hazards. She was later spotted at a nearby park attempting to run down the man responsible for bringing her into this world; dear old dad. The cause of all this ruckus? As difficult as it is to swallow, good ol’ Saint Nick, alias Santa Claus, was reportedly to blame.

On Christmas Day 1984 six-year old Terre Haute, Indiana native Jennifer Robertson received her first motorcycle: a brand new Honda Z50 Mini Trail. Jennifer grew up in a family of motorcycle riders. Her brother, dad and even her mom all shared the same affliction. For Jennifer, the backyard and the city park would soon be outgrown, replaced by the open road, the drag strip and eventually -with a little coaxing from the same villain who placed the Z50 under the tree so many years ago – The Texas Mile in Goliad.

At an early age Jennifer and her family moved to Corpus Christi, Texas. Racing was a natural transition as brother Will and dad (Roger) were both successfully racing cages (automobiles) in various disciplines. Will raced Mini Sprints before turning his attention to the Texas Thunder series where he won a track championship in four-cylinder pro sedans. Her dad was also successful on the track, taking Rookie of the Year honors in Superstock competition.

Jennifer married and moved to Hawaii with her husband who was serving in the Navy. The marriage didn’t last, but her need for speed continued to grow. In addition to riding dirt bikes every weekend at Kahuku Motorcross Park, Jennifer purchased her first street bike, a Yamaha R6, and joined an all-girls motorcycle club branded Dangerous Curves. She tagged along with a few of the girls who signed up one evening to compete at the local drag strip, Hawaii Raceway Park. “I was hooked from then on and spent every Friday and Saturday night at the track during summer.”

Jennifer prepares to launch at Hawaii Raceway Park on her Suzuki GSXR 1000.
Jennifer prepares to launch at Hawaii Raceway Park on her Suzuki GSXR 1000.

I asked Jennifer to describe those early runs: “I was so nervous the first time I went down the track, afraid I would stall the bike or do a wheelie and crash. I remember being so excited to get into the 12’s, and then 11’s, and then excited all over again to get into the 10’s on my R6. I remember my first 10-second pass and knowing before I got the ticket that I had some sort of major breakthrough. Something clicked in my brain and I knew exactly what I had to do. A fellow racer asked if I would like to ride his 2001 GSX-R1000. I ran a 9-second pass and ended up buying the bike from him. My best pass at Hawaii Raceway Park on the GSX-R1000 was a 9.27!”

I asked Jennifer about her start in speed trials competiton: “My Dad got me involved and insisted I give it a try. We took a naturally aspirated Suzuki Hayabusa to the Texas Mile in 2005.” After a handful of runs she was hooked. “I agreed that it would be fun if Dad and I could become the first father daughter team to join the 200 mph club (at the Texas Mile). One year later we did just that! It’s a nice change from drag racing, although I must say I get a lot more nervous getting ready to make a 200+ mph pass down the mile than I do at the drag strip. For the most part I’m comfortable with the higher speeds, although I don’t recommend going over 200 mph with a 20+ mph crosswind! It really doesn’t seem all that fast without wind, but when you add in a few strong gusts it gets interesting really fast!”

Jennifers dad  Roger  was responsible for getting her into land speed racing and was happy to lend a hand.
Jennifer’s dad, Roger, was responsible for getting her into land speed racing and was happy to lend a hand.

One of the obstacles Jennifer must overcome in land speed racing is her size. At 5’ 4” tall, hanging on in spite of the wind can at times be a challenge. “When I was racing Supersport in AMA I kept my weight around 120 pounds. We had to weigh a certain amount after each pass (bike and rider together). If we went under that weight we were disqualified. I’ve found it’s better for me to weigh 130-135 pounds for land speed racing. I feel like I don’t fight the wind as much at high speeds and it shifts smoother since I’m not sliding so much. I understand that many riders at Bonneville add weight to their bikes to get better traction and this may be something we need to do if we build a bike with more horsepower.”

I asked Jennifer how she compares herself to Leslie Porterfield or Trillium Muir, who have both claimed to be the world’s fastest female motorcyclist in their respective fields.
On Trillium: “I’ve had several conversations with Trillium online and think she’s awesome. I have a lot of respect for her because she uses drag racing to improve her land speed skills.” Trillium’s claim to fame is a top speed of 239 mph at the Maxton Mile in North Carolina.

They did it! First father-daughter team to join the 200 mph Club.
They did it! First father-daughter team to join the 200 mph Club.

On Leslie: “I met Leslie Porterfield while competing at the Texas Mile. I’m not sure she has ever really tried to go fast at the Mile… Maybe she was just testing for Bonneville? I’m pretty sure her bike has at least 200 more horsepower than mine and I’m still the fastest female to ever go down the Texas Mile. I do respect her because I know she has gone down at Bonneville and she is still out there racing.”
In 2008 Leslie ran 211 mph versus Jennifer’s 222 in Texas. Another female competitor, Debbie Dross, ran a 209 the following year at the Texas Mile with a personal best 218 at the airstrip in Loring, Maine.
What are Jennifer’s future plans? “I would like to go 250+ at the Texas Mile and concentrate on racing my turbo bike at the drag strip. I’ve considered competing at Bonneville and would love to experience the Salt Flats; I just have to find a way to get there!”