Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Front Page -

Bon­neville is, we sus­pect, a name you’re fa­mil­iar with. In this case we’re talk­ing salt flats, specif­i­cally the vast ex­panse of them in north-west Utah and home to the Bon­neville Speed­way that has be­come syn­ony­mous with land speed record at­tempts on both two wheels and four. Speed tri­als are still held at Bon­neville through­out the sum­mer, but the big an­nual draw is Speed Week, run by the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Tim­ing As­so­ci­a­tion (SCTA). If you’ve al­ways fan­cied giv­ing Speed Week a go then fill your boots, but be warned, this is no Run What Ya Brung at Santa Pod. The SCTA runs a tight ship and the Salt Flats aren’t ex­actly hos­pitable.

“Bon­neville is about as hos­tile as it gets,” says John. “There isn’t any­thing other than your pit, the race course it­self, a lot of of salt and an in­cred­i­ble amount of heat – it just eats into you. Noth­ing cools down while you’re there, you run your en­gine and it’s still as hot an hour later when you put the bike away.

But while the lo­ca­tion can’t be de­scribed as friendly, the or­gan­is­ers push the boat out to wel­come com­peti­tors. “The SCTA are the most help­ful and or­gan­ised bunch of peo­ple I’ve ever come across,” con­tin­ues John. “We could not have asked for a bet­ter re­cep­tion. They run a very tight event but it’s run tra­di­tion­ally. There are no big screens, the only elec­tron­ics is the tim­ing it­self. You even have to buy a CB ra­dio for your crew ve­hi­cle to find out what time you’ve got be­cause noth­ing is posted any­where. It’s run al­most ar­chaically but bril­liantly, and the scale it’s on is im­mense. You can’t ride your bike any­where but on the course, so you have to trans­port it around all the time, from cour­ses to pit to tim­ing. It’s not un­com­mon for your crew ve­hi­cle to do 100 miles in a day.

“You have to take ev­ery­thing with you and bring it all back to the ho­tel each night. We did most of the work on the bike in the ho­tel car park. Your base­line tem­per­a­ture is about 105 de­grees, 110 out­side, so I worked on the bike through the night, when it was 75.

The SCTA do a thing called ‘rookie ori­en­ta­tion’, which helps you through all the pro­cesses. We cor­re­sponded a lot with them be­fore­hand to en­sure our bike would pass. Your bi­ble is the rule­book – ‘Rules and records, dry lake speed tri­als’. There are no grey ar­eas with the tech in­spec­tion. We flew through, but if you don’t pass you don’t race.”

Cal Ray­born set a 265.492mph record in 1970 with this 1458cc H-D Sport­ster stream­liner

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