Moto Guzzi Pushrod Engined Land Speed Record Assault




October 23, 1999

It is now 3:00 p.m. Pacific time and we are back from the flats.  It was a very interesting day, with lots of challenges.    This weekend is “Deer Widows Weekend” here in Utah, and the hotel is filled to bursting with women getting away from home while their husbands, boyfriends, or whatever are out hunting poor defenseless critters.  Most are dressed to kill, and the hotel has put on special programs for them including male strippers.  Some of the crew were not able to get much sleep last night for all the racket.  At 1:30 they were doing cartwheels down the hallways, and a party was going on across the hall from my room until 6:30 this morning.  Even after getting 4 hours sleep, which was interrupted often, I was a wreck.  But I managed to roll out in time to meet a few of the people for breakfast.  Turns out that about half the crew needed to sleep in, so we didn’t finally get everyone to the salt until after 9:00 a.m.

Mike Mendoza was already there, preparing his bike to run the backup for his record in the same class we were running.

We started preparing the bike for the back up run for the APS-PG record.  That is “A Frame”, “Partial Streamliner”, “Pushrod”, “Gas”.  The class we had already beaten was the P-PP, which is “Production
Frame”, “Production engine”, “Pushrod”.  When it was time to go to the start line I went with for the first time in the meet.  It was exciting watching the cars and bikes launch.  Mike ran before us and ran a 130 which would be good for the record if something happened to us.  Or if he could successfully protest us.

Mitch ran the bike up to the line next to a turbocharged 1971 Norton.  The Norton launched before us but he was not in our class so was no threat to us.  He also had problems and turned a speed less than 100 mph.

When the starter sent Mitch on his way he eased it off the line and started to slowly build speed.  He turned a 139mph through the traps, which combined with the previous 137 made for a 138 average.  The bike again went to impound to be inspected for the class.  It was soon released as the engine had already been sealed.

In the mean time Mike Mendoza was working on his Harley CR to get it into another class.  Because we were looking like we could take his record he had to ante up the money to register for another class.  I haven’t quite figured out which class it was but he was running against a 119 record.  He finally went out and ran a 130 and it certainly appeared that he would get his name in another spot in the record book.  Sometime during the meet the team dubbed him the “Tasmanian Devil”, because of the feverish way that the working on the bike and turned wrenches.  He is like a man possessed when he starts wrenching.  We believe that he liked the competition and was a true sportsman and gentleman about the whole process.

Mike is the old style of Harley biker and a man who seems to value his word and playing fair.  Time after time he helped us out, yet without losing sight of the fact that we were after his records.   As the meet went on I believe he started getting a bit tired of being around, but he never said that and was actually very supportive and helped us save embarrassment more than once.

The LM V was released from impound and we decided there was plenty of time to re-qualify for another record run.  This time Russel and the crew removed the air tubes and constructed velocity stacks out of plastic cups, racer’s tape, and hose clamps.   The guys set out for the line and we all stood by the tent waiting for him to streak by.  When he did we waited, quiet as a morgue, to hear the announcer say the times.  It finally came, 142.  The stacks had been good for another 2.5mph or so.

I ran to the impound area to be the first to welcome Mitch back, but when Russell pulled him into impound we knew we had a problem by the look on his face.  Turns out that something had broken in the clutch and the cable was very “squishy”.  We fiddled with it a bit and it appeared that it would be ok, just that the throw would be very small.  We discussed this a bit and decided that we needed to make the last run of the day and so about 1:30 we were convoyed to the start line, along with mike.

We ran first.  It was tough waiting for him to finish his run so we could hear the speeds.  Mitch seemed to hit top speed in the first mile and continued on.  We were so very worried about the clutch, but we needn’t have worried as the speeds were announced we shouted with pride, 142, 142, 142…  If we could just pass tech we would now have another record at 142mph.

Mike ran next and we the last run of the entire meet.  He seemed to be getting on it until about the 1 mile marker when his bike started to sputter.  He ended up going through the traps at only 88mph.  After a good meet his engine had broken.  We certainly felt bad for him.  We had been rooting him on the whole time, and we too were disappointed when he DNF’ed.

But of course our two records would be sweet, if we could pass inspection.

Russell started to remove the heads and take off the velocity stacks.  The Tech Inspector, Dale, seems to be a very detail oriented guy, and we had built a bike that should have been 992cc.  That would leave us only 8cc of space between being legal and illegal.  We were sweating it while we waited for Dale to check the Norton first.  He had set a record and had to go through the same stuff as us.

When it was finally our turn we were all concerned but hopeful.  He finally finished and we learned that we had about 10cc to spare and were probably right on 990 or so.  Close enough…. 

I was just about to shout with joy when he said he now had to check the carburetors.  My heart sunk as I watched him take his micrometer to the carbs.  As he walked back to the tailgate of the pickup that he was using for a desk, I wondered what he would say.  Finally he looked up for the papers and announced, “Congratulations, you can start celebrating”.

We did.  We now owned the P-PP, and APS-PG Bonneville Land Speed Records!!!!

Mike went home with a broken bike but he is very tenacious and will certainly be back.  This could turn into one heck of a rivalry, and there would be no telling what would happen if he had financial backing from the Harley list.

But we will also be back!

I will post more Monday night.  For now I have to let the folks from Salt Lake MotorSports have their monitor back.   Can't wait to get home and read all my e-mail.

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