GUY MARTIN’S SPEED RECORD BID

EXCLUSIVE IN­SIDE STORY

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Front Page - By Adam Child SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

Try­ing to achieve 400mph on two wheels was never go­ing to be easy. Rac­ing the Isle of Man TT or the Dakar Rally is hard, but they’re more about en­durance and con­sis­tency than they are about break­ing new ground. It’s all been done be­fore and you’re fol­low­ing in brave foot­steps, aim­ing to beat the next man on the road – but point­ing a 25ft 1000bhp stream­liner down a fea­ture­less salt strip at 400mph is a trip into the un­known. No­body re­ally knows what’s go­ing to hap­pen. But that’s also the thrill; both phys­i­cally and from a tech­ni­cal point of view – you’re go­ing where no­body has been be­fore.

To quote the most fa­mous salt pi­o­neer of all time, Burt Munro: “you live more in five min­utes flat-out on a bike than most peo­ple do in a life­time.” And that’s why thrill-seek­ers and pi­o­neers have been chas­ing land speed records on the Bon­neville Salt Flats since 1914.

Stand­ing on the fa­mous, alien white lakebed you can’t help but feel the his­tory, and the level of ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion grows the sec­ond your foot crunches onto the hard white crust. It’s per­fectly silent and still on the salt, the only noise the dis­tant sound of a

gen­er­a­tor des­per­ately try­ing to power a huge Amer­i­can RV. The white of the salt re­flects the in­tense heat, mean­ing you have to ap­ply sun cream up in­side your shorts and be­neath your chin. But the des­o­late 40 square miles of dry lakebed isn’t a nice place to spend your time. There’s no shade, and no es­cape from the heat, but – as the record breakers will tes­tify – land speed record at­tempts re­quire a huge amount of pa­tience, the con­di­tions have to be per­fect. And that means sit­ting on the salt for days on end. Wait­ing. The salt has to be rock solid, the wind has to be un­der 3mph and the bike has to be run­ning ab­so­lutely per­fectly.

But con­di­tions aren’t per­fect. The crusty salt is too soft in places, re­cent rain hav­ing pooled into lo­calised lakes, be­fore evap­o­rat­ing back into the end­less skies. But it’s not baked hard, and that means trouble.

So we wait. Disori­en­tat­ing early morn­ing starts wit­ness us star­ing at the curved hori­zon in milky dark­ness as the sun gen­tly peeks above the crust, the skies turn­ing from inky black­ness to stun­ningly vivid blue. But there’s no in­stant re­ward. No sound of those turbo-charged en­gines burst­ing into life, no sign of Guy clam­ber­ing into the claus­tro­pho­bic cabin. The team bus­tle like in­sects around the Rocket Stream­liner, adjusting, test­ing, tun­ing and tweak­ing while oth­ers in­spect the salt, driv­ing trucks up the course drag­ging grad­ing sleds to try and prep the sur­face. It’s rut­ted, and tan­gi­bly soft in places. It should be hard as tar­mac.

The FIM re­quire the bike, and Guy to jump through hoops, re­sult­ing in an­other flurry of ac­tiv­ity as a bike in­spec­tion leads to mod­i­fi­ca­tions re­quired to sat­isfy rac­ing reg­u­la­tions. Guy has to be able to exit the Stream­liner un­aided within 30 sec­onds, and hav­ing squeezed him­self into the fuse­lage, he man­ages an exit again in just 15 sec­onds. Now he just needs to post a 300mph run to get the green light from the FIM to go for the record.

Surely that’s easy? Guy nailed the Stream­liner down the salt at 274.2mph just a few weeks ear­lier after barely more prac­tice than you’d get test rid­ing a bike from your lo­cal dealer.

But the salt won’t give up its speed that eas­ily. While be­ing towed down the course for a sight­ing shake­down the Rocket gets caught in a rut, and turns over, slid­ing on its right­hand side like a mil­lion-pound car­bon fi­bre slug. Guy’s out in sec­onds, un­harmed, but the spill means a re­turn to the pits. Again, we wait.

Days pass like this. The per­fect storm seems res­o­lutely un­will­ing to ar­rive. If the Stream­liner is per­fect, then the wind is too high; when the wind is right, the salt is too damp. And so it con­tin­ues. A ten­ta­tive run even­tu­ally re­sults in the Rocket hit­ting an un­of­fi­cial 198mph, but con­di­tions aren’t right for more. And so we wait.

Dawn on Sun­day looks promis­ing, and again the team run through the in­sanely con­vo­luted process of ready­ing the Rocket. Guy climbs in, the FIM are ready to ob­serve, and he’s off un­der his own power. It looks good for around a mile, and then sud­denly the Rocket is side­ways, and slid­ing down the salt on its side again.

It’s an ig­no­min­ious end to the at­tempt – but time has run out, and the In­for Rocket Stream­liner needs too much at­ten­tion to make it pos­si­ble that they can get out again any time soon. It’s over. It’s time to leave the salt and re­group, to wait for an­other win­dow of op­por­tu­nity, to wait for per­fec­tion. Lady luck wasn’t on the team’s side this time.

“It’s all part the job boy, isn’t it? Feel­ing our way,” said Guy. “I guess if it was an easy thing to do ev­ery­one would have done it by now. So we’ll get a plan sorted and get on with the next go at it as soon as we get the chance.”

‘I guess if it was an easy thing to do ev­ery­one would have done it’

Fastest tea drinker in Utah… Guy gets strapped in to the stream­liner

The team’s awning shields the Stream­liner from the el­e­ments

Pick-up truck tows Stream­liner out to the start point

Guy and his crew worked from long be­fore dawn

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