Salt Addiction: Mike Cook’s 2011 Shootout

October 21, 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.

Richard Assen ran over 263 mph on his way to rewriting history on his turbocharged Hayabusa motorcycle.
Richard Assen ran over 263 mph on his way to rewriting history on his turbocharged Hayabusa motorcycle.

This year Mike Cook’s Landspeed Shootout offered a 12-mile course. From the highway running toward floating mountain, the first couple of miles were wet and loose. Once you reached the third mile, however, it tightened up nicely and you could really let her rip. Coming from the opposite direction, moisture wasn’t much of an issue, though the initial run up was a bit rough. Luckily for most, terminal velocity could be reached in a much shorter distance.

History was made once again at the world’s fastest wheel driven motorsports event with Richard Assen conquering Jon Noonan’s long standing record of 252.8 mph. Richard’s 263-mph run with a 259-mph return toppled AMA and FIM records, putting him on top with his turbocharged 1350cc Suzuki Hayabusa-powered A-Ward special with an official two-way average of 261.3 mph!

Tires are always a big concern when running at these speeds. I spoke with Richard in his pit on the subject: “We continue to explore options that will provide the greatest level of safety at speed,” said Assen. “This year we ran both a shaved ZR rated tire back and front and also a Goodyear Front runner lsr tire on the rear only. Between the two there were no noticeable handling differences, but the lsr tire grew more than 1” in diameter at 250 mph and shaved itself on the battery box.”

Good information to know…

Al Lambs potent Honda being prepped and ready for action.
Al Lamb’s Honda being prepped and ready for action.

Aerodynamics also play a huge role in getting down the course fastest. I saw multiple body pieces lying in wait: “We experimented with different tails to gauge differences in drag and handling,” continued Assen. “Other factors influence handling such as ballast weight and location, center of pressure, angle of attack, etc. We also brought an older front fairing we used two years ago which achieved 260 mph for a back up. We had similar speeds this year, but at 10% less throttle with the only changes being aero and ballast position.”

I asked if being from New Zealand away from technology derived in the states was a hindrance or advantage when competing here: “I think being isolated geographically is the catalyst behind being innovative and resourceful and by default works to our advantage,” Assen said. “We run on the smell of an oily rag financially, which means we don’t always buy the best available items – we end up making things ourselves, sometimes with mixed results.”

This year it appears they got it right…

Another rider who seems to be on a tear lately is Al Lamb. Riding his Honda CBR1000RR in MPS1000BF, Al broke records at all three of the meets he competed in. Starting with Speed Week Al raised the SCTA record of 218.854 mph to an impressive 226.549 mph, with his best run the fastest of all bike entries at more than 237 mph. This earned him a red hat and his place in the coveted 200 MPH Club. I asked Al where the new found speed came from: “We’ve been working since mid 2010 on this bike and this is the first time I’ve ridden it with the new changes,” said Lamb. “We’ve concentrated on our aerodynamic package and this is where our biggest gains have been made.”

Al Lamb at speed on his potent Honda
Al Lamb flying across the salt at speed on his potent Honda.

The Bub meet was next, and Al set a new AMA/FIM record for his class running 225.491 mph and had the fastest pass of the event at just over 235 mph. At the Shootout Al raised the bar even higher, so I again asked the question how he managed to keep going faster: “In the ten days between Bub and the Shootout we completely rebuilt the bike, sending the engine back to Lozano Brothers Porting,” said Lamb. “We also had a handling issue so the rear suspension went to Trevor Weiler at AHM, who worked his magic on our rear shock and cured our high speed handling issue. We added more weight and started with a longer run up.”

At the Shootout they raised their recent AMA/FIM record to more than 245 mph.

Jamie Williams is another tough competitor at the Shootout. Last year he ran 1650MPS-F using NOS and set the FIM record at 206.027. His best run was a pass at 211.564 mph in the mile. This year, however, he ran the same chassis but with a new engine from Bob Carpenter, running it without Nitrous.

“As the year progressed we’ve been evolving our bodywork,” said Williams. “At this event we were running a new tail given to us by Al Lamb and some modified front fairings from Catalyst Racing.”

The results were a definite improvement. Jamie set a new FIM world record at 216.912 mph on only his third pass.

“Our top speed at the event was 223.567 mph,” boasted Williams. “On our last pass the motor ventilated the engine case using the #1 connecting rod. This caused an oil fire that aborted my run.”

Jamie Williams tucked in and flying
(Above): Jamie Williams tucked in and flying. (Below): Jamie walks away from his burning motorcycle while emergency workers tend to the fire.Jamie walks away from his burning motorcycle while emergency workers tend to the fire.

Jamie makes it sound somewhat melancholy when, in fact, it was anything but that. Here’s Jamie’s play by play on how it happened:

“From the start it felt like a good run. I was just under 200 mph in the top of 5th gear. All of the sudden the motor quit pulling. I heard a bang, then flames coming up the left side of the bike between the frame and the bodywork. My first thought was to slow down and get my leg out of the fire. I stood up and put my leg on the back of the tail while standing up on the right peg. Data acquisition shows I stood up on the bike around 145 mph and it seems to indicate I jumped off somewhere around 40–50 mph. The bike and I came to a stop just off the right side of the course, 15–20 feet apart. The fire burnt my left boot and leathers, leaving blisters on my calf and thigh.”

The fire was caused by engine oil getting onto the exhaust header. The resulting fire traveled down both sides of the frame to the rider.

“From now on our exhaust will have header wrap on it to try and prevent the fire from starting,” said Williams. “I spoke to Joe Hanson of DJ Safety and we’re looking at installing a suppression system to try and give the rider time to get the bike stopped without getting burnt. He also recommends wearing Nomex undergarments from now on.”

Data acquisition shows the bike was going 196 mph when the fire started. It took over 25 seconds to get it slow enough for Jamie to depart the vehicle. We’re glad Jamie escaped with minor injuries, and through his efforts future incidents of this nature might be avoided.

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