Salt Flat Rookies Set Velocity Document At Bonneville, Half 1

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Nick’s Notice: The Bonneville Salt Flats provide a pure however advanced problem, and who higher to sum up that problem than my gifted good friend Gregg Bonelli? Right here, the verbose Bonelli discusses Bonneville, report setting, classic challenges, and the success of a rookie crew aboard a “extremely modified” Yamaha TZ350. Tune in subsequent week for the second installment of “The Salt Bug.”

For those who’ve been browsing, you recognize not each set of waves yields a very good trip. It’s an effort to combat the waves on the seashore and get out past the shore break so you possibly can flip round and await the one you hope is coming that provides you with a trip definitely worth the effort. For some who race classic bikes, Bonneville is like that. If that’s what issues within the ocean of issues you might have performed with a motorbike, then it is advisable go there.

When you’ve seen bikes ridden to world-record pace, you’ll have to determine for your self when you have what it takes to try this. It’s not for everybody. Maybe you solely have some obscure understanding of the way it’s performed. For those who do, it’s best to know that it may be costly, a waste of effort and time, and you would die within the course of.

There isn’t any prize cash, only a timing slip and a certificates of verification from the timing physique confirming that you just now maintain the report for no matter class it may be. The checklist of obstacles to setting a report is lengthy, and the checklist of report holders is brief. It requires one thing distinctive from these of us within the racing world that is just too a lot bother for all however the actually devoted.

Chris Glaister and Jeff Henise are actually devoted. The previous is a design engineer and the latter is a analysis chemist, however each have an curiosity in bikes and pace. They collaborated this previous season within the design, development, and using of a record-setting Yamaha TZ350-powered motorbike that set two land-speed data its first time at Bonneville.

Orange Bird completed

The “Orange Chicken” is lastly accomplished, just a few days earlier than we needed to depart for the Bonneville Salt Flats. What a very good feeling!

Photograph by Jaeson Cardiff

Early within the constructing phases, I noticed on Jeff’s Fb web page, the place he documented the trouble, that he was planning to make use of a Yamaha twin. I’ve many left over from my competitors days and know him from his championship season of classic roadracing with a membership by which I officiated.

I launched myself to him at a race in Alabama after listening to some unhappiness circulating that his self-made machine merely couldn’t be authorized. It was the ultimate meet of the yr and by profitable he clinched the championship. My journalistic nature sensed a narrative, and I went to analyze. Whereas there had by no means been something prefer it earlier than, the naysayers had not learn the rule guide as intently as he had and had been incorrect about Henise’s bike being non-compliant. The bike was authorized.

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Fairly than beginning with an present motorbike after which attempting to find one of the best class to race in, he had chosen a category after which made a purpose-built machine from scratch, body and all, even casting his personal chrome-bore cylinder. Whereas the foundations allowed a motorbike prefer it, such a factor had by no means earlier than existed. This offended some purists. Nostalgia is one factor however the guidelines are made for competitors, which is one other.


To race classic bikes, some homage should be paid to the previous in any other case you’re simply poking individuals with energy and a few take it badly. All guidelines have inherent structural issues in spite of everything, and the problem of classifying classic bikes into grids of ample measurement to be economically possible whereas classing them to be mutually aggressive is doubly tough. Some points must do with security, some with updates that made the previous methods of constructing issues out of date, and a few with elements which are merely not out there. Regardless of the will to race once more on the bikes my associates and I raced 50 years in the past, the realities are sufficient to maintain it from ever taking place once more. We must always all keep younger without end too, however that’s not going to occur both.

modified Yamaha TZ350 parallel twin

The finished machine, its sidecover eliminated, the extremely modified Yamaha TZ350 parallel twin sitting in entrance of co-conspirator Jeff Henise’s hand-built growth chambers.

Photograph by Chris Glaister

Nonetheless, the previous is at all times with us, and I’m reminded that we within the classic motorbike world are linked to at least one one other in plenty of obscure methods. Chris and Jeff named their machine the “Orange Chicken” in honor of Don Vesco’s Silver Chicken and in recognition of his contribution to the game on the whole and Bonneville specifically. The report that they determined to problem had stood for 40 years and was set at 159.9 mph by Brian Erickson. Whereas these of us who’ve by no means set a report might imagine the decimals are trivial, getting it proper is likely one of the issues that separates those that have performed it from those that don’t actually perceive what it means.

The rule guide having been digested and the goal having been established, they started the method of designing a machine to perform their ends. Jeff had beforehand performed such a challenge to turn out to be a 250cc roadrace champion so the bones of the deed had been identified. The particulars of this problem had been a thriller, nonetheless, regardless that they’d seen it performed. The human creativeness is a spectacular factor, and there are as some ways to do issues as males can consider. When it comes to bikes meant to go quick, some could look quick however by no means truly be quick whereas others, which can seem like they eat turnips and should even be known as “The Turnip Eater,” show to be record-setting machines.

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Engineers are likely to suppose much less romantically so the combining of arduous numbers and intuitive pondering made the challenge a labor of measurement, calculation, and welding for Chris and Jeff. In addition they had pleasant collaboration with plenty of notable builders and pace racers within the space together with Ralph Hudson, a world report holder, and Invoice Woods who had additionally made a laydown chassis up to now. Each had been indispensable of their counsel and help and hats are tipped right here to them for his or her benevolent good will. Ralph is so good natured about such issues that his identify has been put ahead for a knighthood, and whereas all of us agree that he has he correct bearing and character to be worthy of the distinction, none of us are fairly positive who to speak to about it.

In the long run, Chris and Jeff shared the work and are gracious in regards to the credit score, every giving the opposite full measure except for the engine construct which was completely performed by Jeff. He in flip acknowledges the technical perception and help of Wayne “Wobbly” Wright, who was answerable for Jon Ekerold’s 350cc GP world championship engines. Jeff didn’t simply construct the motor and the growth chambers, nonetheless, he constructed it on-line with everybody watching. Within the course of, he turned a manufacturing engine for a commuter bike right into a fire-breathing, 11-port, reed-valved monster making greater than twice its authentic horsepower. As soon as the work was lastly performed, they set off for the salt with out the posh of a take a look at trip, having run fully out of time.

Engine test fire day

Check hearth day for the engine: The float bowls on the Lectron carburetors overflowed closely and we didn’t know why, which was annoying as a result of we had been scheduled to go away for Bonneville in simply 48 hours.

Photograph by Lewis Grubb

I donated a motor to the challenge after talking with Jeff about my curiosity in writing in regards to the course of and discovering out that I had a classic set of circumstances that may be helpful. My classic connection was not simply with him, nonetheless; it stretched again over time to the day I first acknowledged a motorbike as a tool related to hurry. I knew about pace already from vehicles, my household having generations of Detroit dealerships in its previous. My mom had bragged usually that her ’36 Ford would run 100 mph after which complain that it wanted that many once more to be stopped. The household went to the Indianapolis 500 yearly and Gasoline Alley, the place they labored on the vehicles in rows of picket garages open on one finish so you would see males making issues, bolting them collectively, after which wheeling them out to the monitor to see how briskly they’d go.

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I grew up there, no less than the racing a part of me did, and from 1958 by means of the large hearth in flip four on the opening lap of the 1964 race, I had the ambition to be a driver there. That very same yr, Roger Reiman was clocked at 149.78 mph on an overhead-valve single-cylinder Harley-Davidson at Bonneville. I noticed an advert in about it and was impressed, having watched the much more refined four- and eight-cylinder Indy vehicles barely handle 150 in qualifying. A long time later, after he and I had each retired from energetic competitors, we shared a campfire and some beers one night time at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Highway America street course swapping racing tales. Whereas his accomplishments had been far better than my very own, we had widespread acquaintances and tales to inform about them over our lengthy careers.

His commentary about it at that distance was that he was most grateful he had not been the one to construct it as a result of he wouldn’t have identified the place to start. “They will wobble,” he famous, as if none of us would know that, “they usually can fall over.” There was a little bit of silence afterward because the dozen or so of us sitting round listening to him imagined what it may be like to slip down the salt at 150 mph trapped in a metallic tube. Having by no means tried it, none of us had something so as to add so we sipped our beers. We had been as removed from that kind of claustrophobia as one may get, underneath the starry sky of the Northwoods however nonetheless, even there, the considered it gave us all pause.

Orange Bird

Jeff and assist crew member John Patton talk about repair the overflowing float bowls.

Photograph by Lewis Grubb

How do you go about constructing your self a record-setting pace racer? I’ve requested myself that query after watching the unbelievable number of issues that run at Bonneville. Then too you’ll have encountered a pace wobble whereas using and been rattled by it, not being positive what brought about it or keep away from it. I actually left dents within the sides of a Kawasaki GPz750 fuel tank at Daytona because the evil snake practically killed me. No quantity of muscle or dedication can maintain a poor design regular and if I’m constructing one thing to run vast open for a number of miles, I don’t need to discover out that it’s going to begin some unmanageable oscillations if a crosswind upsets it or as a result of I can’t keep in mind whether or not it’s time to steer left to go proper or not.

Half 2 Subsequent Tuesday!

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