Moto Guzzi Pushrod Engined Land Speed Record Assault




October 22, 1999

Breakfast this morning was a bit subdued at first as we all seemed a bit tired, but then the discussion turned to the plan of attack for today.  The plan became to first attack the 1000cc Modified Pushrod Production class, then once the chin fairing arrived we would go for the 1000cc Pushrod Production class that we had come there to get.  When we got to the track we changed the numbers, took off the seat, fabricated a foam pad to replace it, and did some other modifications to make the bike fit the modified class.  We started the registration process for that class and prepared to make our fist run in that class.  But then the course was shut down because the salt had been torn up too bad at the start line.  It took an hour for them to get the track moved over a little more towards the pits.

While we were waiting Russell went to check on finishing the registration and pay the application fee.  As he was going through the process he found that the record was not 127, as we had thought, but was raised at the August “Speed Week” to 152.  That seemed a bit beyond our reach at this time, so we started to search for a class that we could be competitive in.

We had been racing against a record set my Mike Mendosa who was pitted next to us on the salt.  He is a wonderful character who is the old kind of seat of the pants mechanic and runs an 1000cc Harley CR.  He had been great help to us even though we were running against a record that he had set.  Mike is a character but a man of great heart.  We all have taken to him, and honestly feel bad that we are running after his record.  So we finally decided to run against the record he had set the day before.  We really didn’t want to take him on for his new record, but it was the one class that we fit into.  It was the A Frame Partial Streamlined Pushrod Gas 1000cc class.

So we started to strip the bike, add new pegs on the rear, cover all kinds of things, including the headlight, with racer’s tape.  We were about ready to go make a run at this class when the chin spoiler showed up at the hotel.  We had sent Ed Holmes to the hotel to watch for it, and when he got there we were ecstatic.  The crew installed it, and we discussed which class we should go for.  It was finally decided to run after or original PP target.  So we started restoring the bike back to stock condition.

The balloon had not showed up yet, but it was on its way from Salt Lake City with Sidney’s friend Erwin.  When it finally arrived and we unpacked the truck it was discovered that the burner had been left behind.  Erwin was able to find his son and get him to bring it out to us.  The day before the balloon had been lost in transit by the trucking company that was bringing it from North Carolina.

As we prepared to run, a couple of men came up to us.  They looked like spectators, one had a camera, yet they were not.   What they were was the Senior Editor of the American Motorcyclist Association magazine.  They were completely impressed by the way we had put the team together over the internet and took about 15 minutes to interview me for the magazine.  They had actually been on there way back to California from another reporting assignment and had decided to stop in at the track.  They only had an hour to spare but they spent 40 minutes of that with us.  They asked to ride along when the team took the bike to the start line and we certainly found room for them in our van.

The bike was finally ready to run and Todd Ross took it out and hit 134mph which was 15mph above the current record of 119.  The bike was then impounded to wait for back up runs.

Sidney was by this time setting up the balloon, and we had time to watch some of the other cars and bikes run.  It was incredible seeing an electric speedster, a dagger shaped car powered by 6000 AA batteries.  It hit 248 miles per hour.  It was almost totally silent, only a whoosh as it went by.  And at the opposite extreme was Al Teagues car, which was powered by a massive gasoline engine and hit 397 miles per hour.  The sounds that came from that engine were like a symphony.

No sooner had our bike been impounded that we were notified that the impounded vehicles were to be led to the starting line for their back up runs.  Todd took it down there while those of us left at the home tent bit our finger nails.  But we needn’t have worried.  He ran 134 again.  134 and 134 averages out to 134, easy enough for even me to figure out…  <grin>   We now held the record with the only hurdle to jump was to get the bike through the record technical inspection.

While the bike was being inspected Sidney started to inflate the balloon.  Just as the huge, 75 foot tall, balloon took shape over the salt flats, we learned that the bike had passed tech and we officially had the record.  The balloon was a fitting celebration of the victory as it rose into the sky!  I also had been given a box from John Zabrocki at Silverbrook embroidery, that was only supposed to be opened upon accomplishing the record.  It was hats for the entire crew that said we were the record holders.  Another tribute to the crew and rider of this bike.

We then took the bike for photos with the crew and riders, then back to the pit to be reconfigured for the Altered Streamliner record.  This was accomplished with only minor modifications, but this included having a rear foot peg, and bracket, manufactured by the machine shop that was set up on the salt.

It was decided that Mitch Freshour would be the rider for this attempt.  He was like a kid getting ready to take on a goliath.  This would be his first ever ride on that motorcycle and he handled the bike wonderfully, running a 137mph!!!!!!  A new record, as the old record was 122mph.  So the bike went back to impound.  In the meantime we were interviewed by reporters from Motorcyclist magazine and we gave balloon rides to many of the folks from the pits, and even the officials.

I then had the time and opportunity to go out to the tower.  Last night at dinner I had met Glen and Bob, the fellows who run the timing tower and they had invited me over.  I had to get on the CB radio and ask for permission to cross the track after a car went by and it was clear.  Permission was granted and I crossed.  As I pulled up I noticed that the ambulance had a tire that was missing most of the lugs on the wheel.  I didn’t realize that it was the active ambulance and that there was a crew sitting in it, but I did mention it to Glen when I got in the tower.  Sure enough the ambulance had thrown a shoe and that was a very bad thing at a race.  If there is no ambulance the races have to stop until there is one there.  I am sure the fact that the racing was shut down for an hour and a half was distressing to some people, but it sure would have been more terrible if I hadn’t said anything and an accident had occurred.

It was incredibly exciting seeing the computer system that does all the timing for the events.  They clock the cars, and bikes, through every mile of the course.  The equipment is fairly sophisticated and being a computer geek I was in awe.

As the sun started to fade the balloon rides were still going strong, the bike was in impound for the night, and we were interviewed by Salt Flat Louise who had just written the definitive book about the Bonneville Salt Flats.  She even managed to get the bike removed from impound long enough to be available for her to take photos of it with the riders, in front of the balloon.  An incredible lady who surely will do something wonderful with the photos she took.

Later in the evening Todd, Ed and myself treated ourselves to a five star meal at the best restaurant in town.  It is now 1:00 a.m. and my day begins tomorrow at 6:00 a.m.  I have photos to post but they will have to wait till morning, or later.  (1:30 a.m.  I couldn't wait)

Tomorrow will be another big day.  We are first going to back up the APS-PG record, then if we have time we are going to try to bump it up even further.


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