Over the years there are moments that stand out in our lives. Your first day at school. Losing your virginity. Graduation. (Not necessarily in that order…) Maybe that first job. For land speed racers maybe that first trip to Bonneville, or that first record. I’ve been fortunate to share some of those latter memories here. In fact, this marks my 50th consecutive article for Motorcycle USA.
Chris Vermeulen’s Inside Line was the inspiration behind my approaching Bart Madson to see if it were possible for an “old salt” to share land speed racing with an audience that would have to be built upon. At the time, Chris was a MotoGP rider on the Rizla Suzuki squad. I wondered if there would be enough interest for Salt Addiction to continue on when many other columns had already come and gone.
This is the Buddfab 50cc streamliner, which at the time of the article, was the world’s fastest 50cc motorcycle.
I was fortunate in that my book, Flat Out, had recently been published and had done fairly well against other mainstream motorsports publications of the time. Flat Out was nominated and later became one of three finalists for the Dean Batchelor Award presented by the Motor Press Guild. I had met Bart on the salt and so made the connection. It’s been a labor of love ever since.
In the last four years Salt Addiction’s scope has been wide and varied. We followed the world’s fastest 50cc streamliner, built and driven by John Buddenbaum and Eric Noyes. At the 2006 Bub Speed Trials the team took both the 50cc gasoline and fuel records at 121 and 133 mph respectively.
We met Nebulous Theorem aficionado Jack Costello, whose 50-plus land speed records speak for themselves. Jack is the “Mad Scientist” of Bonneville, creating unique machines like the 5050 streamliner where the rider lays headfirst inside a low profile shell on his belly. His arms extend forward grasping the controls as he flies inches off the ground like Superman without the cape.
We’ve covered fast females of the salt, including Debbie Dross, Leslie Porterfield, Jennifer Robertson and the Klock girls. This highly competitive segment of the sport is growing at a fast pace, both on the salt and on the paved airstrips across the country.
In an unrelated article we paid visit to the “Fast Guys Wives Club,” getting to know Sam Wheeler’s wife, Carol, who made mention of the fact that after meeting Burt Munro in person, true to the movie, he was a bit of a perv… Or, how Pam Carr met Chris in 1994 at the Hagerstown dirt track national. And how after the race she and a girlfriend visited his pit looking for an autograph, and instead she left with his phone number. It was even leaked in the interview how my wife Tricia and I met through an online singles site. Nothing is sacred here…
The Top 1 Ack Attack loaded on the trailer and ready for the trip to the starting line for an early morning run. Photographed by Thomas “Pork Pie” Graff.
The eye behind the lens was another feature. Shutter Speed brought us closer to three of my favorite land speed photographers; historian Thomas “Pork Pie” Graff, fellow German photographer and wild man, Horst Rösler, and salt junkie, Scooter Grubb. All three are masters of their craft, and without their skills and dedication to preserving history for the rest of us to see, we would only have the written word. We thank them for what they contribute to our sport.
Electric powered racers were discussed on two entirely different levels. Eva Hakansson, pilot of the electric powered streamliner KillaJoule, is also crew chief for the world’s fastest electric motorcycle drag racing team, Killacycle. Their 500 horsepower drag bike is capable of going 0-60 mph in just under 1 second and has a best top speed in the quarter mile of just over 174 mph. She hopes to one day power KillaJoule to over 400 mph and hold the title of world’s fastest motorcycle.
Paul takes a moment to prepare mentally before his attempt to break the land speed record for electric motorcycles.
Suspension guru Paul Thede achieved recent notoriety as the first rider to break the 200-mph barrier on an electric powered conventional motorcycle at the famed Bonneville Salt Flats. He rode his electric-powered sportbike to a top speed of 218 mph and believes it is only a matter of time until electric powered machines surpass their current piston powered, gas guzzling predecessors.
Other stories worth mentioning include Joe Amo, whose determination and riding skills netted him a 272 mph pass down the great white dyno on his 1000cc Kawasaki ZX-10R. Sleek bodywork and a well-tuned engine contributed to his success. Brother Jon also competes on the salt on both two and four wheels, and is the founder of landracing.com, the leading website and forum for all things land speed related. In 2009 Jon was awarded the 200 MPH Club Person of the Year award for his efforts with the site.
There are some pretty incredible builds happening in our sport. Ross Brown’s Triple Threat, which he designed and is building in his workshop, is just that. Powered by three methanol burning Kawasaki ZZR1100 engines nestled in a beautifully handcrafted stainless steel chassis, the rider’s cockpit placement extends forward of the front wheel. When asked why he chose stainless over chromoly tubing, the Queensland, Australia automotive engineer enthusiastically replied, “Because rust never sleeps!” Ross is no stranger to racing, having won multiple Speedway sidecar championships and looks forward to this new venture.
Another incredible build in the works is Richard Brown’s Jet Reaction, a jet powered motorcycle streamliner which he also hopes will one day hold the title of world’s fastest two-wheeler. Based in the UK, Richard has also spent considerable time developing a jet pack to be used for individual flight. In 1999 Richard ran an impressive 332.887 mph one way average through the timed mile on the famed Bonneville Salt Flats, legitimizing his status as a true contender.
The Return of Seldom Seen Slim speaks of Jon Wennerberg’s namesake, a deceased prospector from Panamint Valley who on occasion wandered into town to cash in his gold dust, then go drinking and whoring. Folks would ask, “Have you seen SLIM?” The answer was always the same: “No, he’s SELDOM SEEN.” Jon and wife Nancy are both lsr competitors and recently took over the reigns from Jon Amo as the new owners and proprietors of landracing.com. Their dedication and innovative means of covering select speed events is second to none.
Former racers and historians such as Jack Dolan and Scott Guthrie have shared their stories as well as up-and-comers like Shane San Miguel and Scott Horner. Each month is a new adventure and the goal, as always, is to feed the addiction. Thanks for your support along the way.
Enjoy the ride.