Salt Addiction: Valerie Thompson Part II

March 28, 2012
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.

Valerie Thompson – Whole Lotta Changing

Moments before the fury. NHRA Pro Stock drags.
With her focus now on Land Speed Racing, Valerie has put her NHRA Pro Stock Buell drag bike up for sale.

If there’s one word that best describes Valerie Thompson’s racing program for 2012, it’s change. After putting forth a career best quarter mile run of 7.05 seconds at 187.42 mph, the former NHRA Pro Stock competitor has put her 12 foot long, 350 horsepower Buell drag bike up for sale and is focusing on land speed racing for 2012 and beyond.

Away from the track Valerie works as a vehicle presenter for Barrett-Jackson Auto Auctions and has rubbed elbows with top celebrities like Jay Leno, Brett Michaels, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and many NHRA drivers. It’s also where she met Tom and Cindy Wright, who run Martech Services Company, a manufacturer of air breathing systems and her new primary racing sponsor.

Without the support of a major sponsor to run the NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle drag race series, Valerie became more involved in land speed racing and had a memorable year in 2011. Switching from Harleys to the new BMW S 1000 RR was like “night and day”, says Valerie. “It’s much smoother at high speeds and certainly out accelerates any Harley I’ve ridden.”

Tucked in and on the gas  Valeries best run to date on the salt is 201 mph!
Tucked in and on the gas, Valerie’s best run to date on the salt is 201 mph!

Valerie’s previous AMA records of 145 mph in 2006 and 161.736 mph in 2007 riding Keith Ball’s custom built Panhead racers was a great learning experience but paled in comparison to her 200-plus mile per hour run in 2011 on the BMW.

“With spec-gas we ran in the 190-196 mph range,” explains Thompson of her BMW riding experience. “Our top speed was 201.01 mph but was not a record with our own gas and that is the fastest I’ve ever ran. The BMW handles so smoothly I was not sure if I’d hit 200 or not until I got the time slip.”

Valerie tells of some of the challenges competing on two wheels at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats: “Like most, we encountered problems with wheel spin. On my 201 pass the wind was only 3 mph, which felt smooth as silk. The course is so long, you may start with 2 mph winds and then encounter gusts up to 17 mph before finishing a run, which I did on one occassion. It was my decision to run, but going forward, I don’t think I will make that choice again. I drifted off course right after the measured mile around 183 mph. Needless to say, I took a deep breath! Wind tends to be one of the biggest variables at Bonneville, along with salt conditions and managing wheel spin. Maintaining 200 mph for 3-4 miles is not a simple process by any means.”

2011 Was a memorable year for Valerie. Here she poses with her team on the potent BMW.
2011 Was a memorable year for Valerie. Here she poses with her team on the potent BMW.

In 2011 Valerie competed onboard the Kerry Alter/Julian Bivins Racing Team sponsored BMW with great success. For 2012 she stepped up and bought her own BMW S 1000 RR and has taken on a busy race schedule to satisfy her personal goals and the needs of her sponsors. Those involved in her racing efforts this year include: Martech Services Company, La-Man Corporation, JEGS, Worldwide Bearings and Also on board, CTEK battery chargers, Troon, Swisstrax and Stand Up Photos.

Valerie plans to compete not only on the salt flats as well as several retired airstrips. The difference other than the obvious—slippery salt versus grippy pavement, is that the airstrips compete for top speed and club records only. Events Valerie plans to compete at include the Texas Mile, Ohio, Mojave, and Loring—which is 1.5 miles long. At Bonneville she’ll chase the FIM records during Speed Week, Bub and World of Speed.

As if this weren’t enough, the really big news is that Valerie recently joined Ed Shadle and Keith Zanghi, owners of NAE—North American Eagle, to pilot their converted Lockheed F-104 Star Fighter Jet in an attempt to beat Kitty O’Neil’s land speed record of 512 mph. Kitty set this record in 1976 piloting Motivator, a rocket powered streamliner designed and built by Bill Fredrick. It’s said that she had a peak speed on her initial run of approximately 618 mph, but ran out of fuel and coasted through the traps.

Valerie poses with Ed Shadle and Keith Zanghi  partners in the North American Eagle land speed project.
Valerie poses with Ed Shadle and Keith Zanghi, partners in the North American Eagle land speed project.

Another note of interest on Kitty’s attempt is the fact that she wasn’t “allowed” to run any faster, even though she and the machine were quite capable of doing just that. Stuntman Hal Needham was supposed to step in and drive Motivator to a new world land speed record above then current record holder Gary Gabelich and hopefully be the first to break the sonic barrier as well. As it turned out, Needham never drove the vehicle.

For Valerie, I imagine a similar fate is on the drawing board. Ed Shadle hopes to pilot his North American Eagle past the Thrust SSC FIA record of 763 mph—the first ever supersonic land speed record, hoping to reach 800 mph and in the process, bring the unlimited land speed record back to North America.

For Valerie, competing to become the world’s fastest female on land will be no easy feat. Kitty’s record has yet to be broken during the past 36 years. It will challenge her skills, her nerve, and her desire. Testing is currently being scheduled and may find the team in Diamond Valley in the not too distant future. The team is based out of Spanaway, Washington, Valerie’s home state.

Valerie and a couple of the kids from her favorite charity showing their admiration.
Valerie and a couple of the kids from her favorite charity showing their admiration.

In addition to being a former drag racer, a current motorcycle land speed racer and now a full blown land speed jet pilot, one of the things I like most about Valerie is her dedication to helping others. “I’ve worked with the HopeKids organization for a number of years now which is very rewarding. I’ve planned and hosted a 2-Day race track event with 40 kids, HopeKids Walk-A-Thon events, organized a charity motor-cycle run, and attend monthly “Day at the Movies” with over 100 kids.” Author’s note: Valerie donated race memorabilia for our own charity motorcycle event, Ride Annie Ride.

Our star racer was also named co-recipient of the American Woman Riders Association Community Hero Award for her multi-year support of the HopeKids children’s charity. Also, author Dolores Seright presented her with a Red Carpet Award for being featured in her new book “Amazing Women: Shattering Barriers”.