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Salt Addiction: Jon Amo

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Aerodynamics is one of the constantly changing designs for faster speeds. Here Jon tries a tail fin for increased stability at speed.
Jon Amo the 200 MPH Club Man of the Year in 2009, a land speed racing enthusiast and creator of landracing.com.
Memories are made one run at a time at Bonneville. Most remember their first time setting foot on the famous lakebed. Their first pass on the slippery salt with the wind in their face, the throttle held open longer than ever previously imagined. How going at record speed in a straight line sounds so much easier than it actually is. There’s something special about land speed racing that deserves to be shared, or so thought this month’s featured guest, 2009 Bonneville 200 MPH Club “Person of the Year," Jon Amo.

Jon is the creator of landracing.com, the most visited website for land speed racers the world over. Many of the greats of our time are talked about, interviewed or even participate on his forum sharing advice, build diaries and world class bench racing. I asked Jon to share with us how the whole thing started.

“I was always into computers, building websites for fun and amusement. When I started going to the salt I started a page on Team Amo. In 1997 I added pictures and information on other teams. That winter I decided to start a website dedicated to Land Speed Racing. There were other sites, but they were primitive and didn’t have a lot of info. I started writing down catchy phrases for the name. I decided on two simple qualifiers: it had to be short and had to be land based. There came Landracing.com.

“Building a website back then was hugely different then now. Lack of information and technology was the biggest problem. To cover an event also meant I had to be everywhere all the time. I was up at 6 a.m. for return runs, left the salt at sundown, and told myself because people were depending on me for information that I would take NO LESS than 100 pictures a day. I would then upload everything by modem each night. Between the website, Joe’s Bike, my bike and Salt Talks it was always an exhausting week. Most times when I left the salt I fell asleep by the time I hit the rest stop five miles out of town.”

Jon nervously prepares to launch for the first time at Bonneville.
Jon nervously prepares to launch for the first time at Bonneville.
Jon made his first trip to the salt flats to support older brother Joe in 1992 at 16 years of age. They would race all day, and work on the equipment at night at a nearby KOA campground. This is where the obsession began.

“Joe offered his bike to get me into the 200 MPH Club. Instead, with the help of close friend John Gowetski, I purchased a 1992 Kawasaki ZX6 for $500 and began the build process. Joe received two complete ZX12 bodies from A-Tech out of Japan. He ran one on his ZX10, I put the other on my ZX6. I was nervous my first time going through tech and rolling up to the start line. I had never taken a ride down the salt. Scott Guthrie gave me some words of advice, 'Ease into the throttle, you have plenty of space to get comfortable on the bike.' Bill the starter said his piece, 'Have fun, be safe… the throttle works both ways.' He gave me the thumbs up and pointed down course. I put my visor down and like a rookie I hammered the throttle. After that pass I knew I would be running a website and racing on the salt forever.

“I had a discussion with Don Vesco about going 200 mph on a 600cc bike. That got me involved with Kent Riches of AirTech. It’s been a revolving process blowing up and rebuilding. I’m ok with that. During an event on the Salt I had data that supported a run close to 215 mph, however, I cracked a header and burned a hole in an oil line leading to a small fire in the fairing. I couldn't see because of the smoke and things were getting hot. I told myself to keep down, keep the bike straight, and when it was safe I was going to bail if it got too intense. Lucky for me I ended up 30 yards from Fire and Rescue when I stopped. Two years ago I parked the bike. Plagued by handling problems and a mysterious blown engine, I needed a break.”
Jon Amo and Robert Stainless Steeles new 4 wheel streamliner project on display at the 2010 SEMA show.
Jon Amo and Robert “Stainless” Steele’s new four-wheel streamliner project on display at the 2010 SEMA show.

During this break Jon made the switch from two wheels to four, partnering with Robert “Stainless” Steele, a friend who also helped with his 600 project.

“The car is a whole new animal; my first pass was most exciting. There’s something to be said about the canopy coming down and locking in place before getting pushed out. As the speeds got faster, I became a little more uneasy about driving. I recognize that I found my limit for a car streamliner and that is because of my limited experience driving that racecar. Recognizing your limits is priceless, so right now Stainless is best suited to pilot the car. Personally I feel better in control of a bike then the car.”

No Amo Brothers racing story is complete without throwing in the secret to the team’s success, they’re track-proven Amo Anti-Galling Compound.

Jon and brother Joe pulling an all-nighter in the parking lot of a nearby hotel. The famous Amo Anti-Galling Compound was created in this very fashion.
Jon and brother Joe pulling an all-nighter in the parking lot of a nearby hotel. The famous Amo Anti-Galling Compound was created in this very fashion.
“The story starts with the battle with Jason McVicar during the nitrous days. Joe always was a nervous type; when it came time to race he would have to pee. Instead of hitting the porta potties he would grab empty oil bottles and pee in them. Later in the week after an all night parking lot rebuild, we started the bike about 8 am. Jason just got the record back, we had it at 193 and Jason just upped it to 196. After warming the engine, things didn’t sound right, but it ran. Speed Week was coming to a close and we had to make one last ditch effort. We ran the bike and got the record back at 198 mph on a very ill sounding motor.

"When Joe got home his wife had ordered him a set of Carrillo rods which we’d never ran before. The rods arrived and Joe lovingly massaged oil over these brand new gems from a quart he grabbed from the shelf left over from Speed Week. A familiar smell grabbed his attention. It was the same containers of pee from Speed Week! The same containers of 'oil' that we put in the bike that eventually got us the record at 198 mph! How it held together for those passes we don’t know. Thus, the famous Amo Anti-Galling compound was born and is now used in our oil, intercooler, fuel, and coolant and seems to work. We went back to World Finals in 2001 and set the fastest nitrous pass ever at 226 mph. The record still stands today at 223 mph MPS-F 1000cc.”
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Moxnix   March 18, 2011 10:47 AM
Another great article on another great Land Speed racer. Thanks Rocky, keep it up!
rcjones99   March 17, 2011 02:22 PM
Great story Rocky. Keep them coming...
B-kings Rock   March 17, 2011 10:28 AM
Great story....especially enjoyed the sour-engine/pee-in-the-oil-bottle connection....amazing and hilarious. Reminded me of needing an aspirin during a volleyball game at church camp as a kid. Ducked inside our cabin, grabbed an aspirin and what I thought was a cup of water to wash it down. It wasn't water, but pee.... some
resourceful cabin mate had deposited the night before.....watch out for cups and oil bottles containing unverified liquids.