What a week it's been! The TOP 1 Shootout took place this last week (Sept. 22-26) at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Mike Cook ran the meet and provided 12 miles of smooth, hard salt. This was a special event, by invitation only. The best streamliner cars and motorcycles were invited to compete for world records in a world class environment.
We had our share of problems: handling issues and instability on the salt; gusting winds that nearly blew the Ack Attack off course; and a blown mainshaft that required an engine change that challenged the crew which came through with flying colors. Leo Hess, driving a big inch nitro burning V-Twin streamliner crashed Thursday afternoon right before the Ack Attack was scheduled to run, ending the meet for the day. With one day left, and a lingering weather system, we hoped we would get one more chance.
Friday morning came and we were on the salt before the sun came up. The final day officially started at 7:30, and the crew had the Ack Attack already staged at the far end of the course. The machine looked a little different than when we arrived as the rear doors were removed (they were added for streamlining, bringing the rear of the machine to a point tapering like the wing of an airplane). Winds were steady and within our requirements. It wasn't fully daylight when the motors were fired and Mike Akatiff pushed me off heading torward Hwy 80.
From the start I felt confident the bike could do it. We just needed a little luck. With the doors removed the bike ran very stable and I was able to pin the throttle and race flat out for the first time since 2006. The end result was a one way pass with a top speed somewhere around 361 mph! The hairy part was as I entered the measured mile; at peak speed the right side of the canopy popped open and caught me off guard. Imagine rolling down your window at 60 and then multiplying the effect 6 times greater. Wow. I rolled out of the throttle, which unfortunately minimized our fastest speed. Still, it was the fastest run recorded on two wheels...
The turnaround went without a hitch. Mike instructed me to run the bike all the way to the 0 marker right beside Hwy 80. I did just that and we prepped the bike for the turnaround with time to spare. I told Mike about the canopy. He was surprised that there was enough negative pressure created at that speed to pull the canopy from its perch, but assured me it couldn't come off and that it may open again, but try not to worry about it...
The return run was a lot of fun. Got to take off and race between the pits with crews and onlookers lining the course on either side at the start. Speeds were about the same. Entering the mile the ride side of the canopy popped open again. This time (because of the turnaround) there was water and salt inside the cockpit that swirled in the air and also sprayed against the windshield. Again top speed was compromised slightly, but it was plenty fast enough to beat the current record held by Carr in the BUB streamliner.
Sam Wheeler had already gone 352 earlier in the meet, and he gave us one last run for our money. On his final start his mainshaft also let go and his chain dislodged, causing further damage. Sam was done and the record was ours! (pending ratification by the FIM congress at their upcoming meeting in October)
The TOP 1 Ack Attack team achieved their goal. World's fastest motorcycle. The new number that tops the chart is 360.913 mph. Thanks to TOP 1 Oil, Suzuki, and a host of others who made this possible. I'm not used to typing with an ear to ear grin, but for some reason it just won't go away.
Enjoy the ride...
Rocky Robinson is the author of Flat Out, The Race for the Motorcycle World Land Speed Record. The book puts you in the driver’s seat of world class racing machines designed for the sole purpose of going faster than any other before them. It’s a story of teamwork and passion. Of putting your life in someone else’s hands, only to one day find this same person may not have your own best interests at heart.