Rispoli: Chasing a record; BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials
NEWS September 11, 2009
What insanity! I just finished my mile race at Indy and hopped in the van to head to St. Louis to catch a morning flight out to Salt Lake. You see I had a date with a ten foot black beauty and a chase for a new landspeed record. I was tired but quite excited at the same time. The flight was non-eventful as we rented a car and headed out on 80 west. This is an all familiar road I had just traveled on a few weeks earlier on my way to Lodi Cycle Bowl. This time however the race discipline I was about to do was one I never tried before. The bike, was one I never sat on, and the record, one that stood tall for a lot of years. My dad flew out with me and I was going to meet up with my sponsor, Charlie Benton, an incredible guy and someone who believes I have what it takes no matter what I do. Charlie is a quiet guy but an engineer who not only can build an awesome motor but is a world class fabricator as well. He built the bike in his work shop in North Carolina and start to finish it took him three months. In those three months Charlie kept me and my dad up to speed on the development as well as the testing. Charlie was concerned about the stability of the bike and personally performed the initial tow in airport runs as well as the power runs with a stock motor. It wasn't until he was satisfied with the bikes handling that he gave me the OK that we were going to Bonneville 100 percent.
When we arrived at the hotel I rested and prepared myself for the next morning. It was 5 AM when the alarm went off and we headed down to meet Charlie and Jim his helper in the lobby. It would be our morning meeting place for the next four days. We headed out to the salt flats which were several miles away and waited till 6 AM when they released a line of cars, trucks and rigs out on to the salt. It was amazing as we followed each other out for what seemed like 10 miles until a small city of trailers, trucks and cars started to appear in the middle of the salt bed. The sun was just coming up and I was in awe of the whole thing. My dad, who was driving was flipping out because this was the first time he was ever at Bonneville. I had a chance two years earlier to be part of a team that built the record breaking NASCAR machine so some of this was familiar. All and all it was cool because for the next (4) days I would be on the salt with over 250 other record seeking competitors from (8) countries from around the world.
We checked in and I went to the riders meeting at 7 AM. I stayed a little afterwards so I could ask some additional questions and then I headed out for a short walk around the pit area. I went over to Chris Carr's BUB number 7 pit and Chris gave me a some input about the salt and what it was like to ride on it. It was helpful but his streamliner vehicle is way different then what I was about to do. After our little chat I headed to my pit and worked with Charlie and my team to ready our bike. In about an hour later we were on line waiting our turn to head down to the zero starting point. We chose to go on the "run what you brung" short course first so I could get a feel for the bike, the shifting points as well as a feel for the salt before I went all out for a record. When it was my turn to go out I staged and awaited the green flag. Once I took off it was incredible as I headed down slowly shifting trying not to spin up the wheels and eased it into higher gears as I went along. I ended the first run at a speed of 136 MPH without trying and the bike was as stable as a rock. I was mentally ready to do a record run.
The team was excited that we did so well without really trying too hard and we brought the bike back and readied it for another run. At Bonneville you can make as many runs as you can, as long as you get in line and wait your turn. Sometimes it would take 2-3 hours of sitting on line before you got a shot at a run, so getting in three or four runs a day is about as good as it gets. That makes for a long day and at times a frustrating one as well, especially if you get close to a record, but don't go over it like I did.
We set up for the second run on the AMA short course and got the call to the line. The bike and I were ready and I headed out. I went through the gears clean but had a head wind that I could feel start to push me around a little bit. I steadied the bike and headed through the time traps. My time was 143 MPH and the record for the 650cc class I was in was 147.471. I thought I did everything right but the top speed escaped me. We adjusted some things on the bike and went out one more time getting to 144 MPH before we called it a day.
Our second day on the salt went as good as our first. We did a total of (4) runs and came as close as .001 MPH to the record but just couldn't get over it. It was crazy and I was starting to feel this whole record thing might be a silly idea. On Thursday we all vowed we would get it and made some gearing changes, and actually took some components off the bike that were hanging out in the wind, maybe adding some extra drag. It was our third run on Thursday when I got a start with almost no wind, and the salt was really starting to get hard from four days of sun. My down run got us over the record with a 148.250 and I was super excited, however a record is not real unless you can back it up the opposite direction. The problem was it was already 5 PM and the course shuts down at 6 PM. We had an hour to prepare our bike and make a run the opposite way on the course with a speed above the record again. This was getting close and we all rushed around to get everything in order. We drove the bike down the other end of the course and waited our turn. When we got the OK to go I was a little nervous since this was the first time all week I was on this course and the salt felt a little different since not that many bikes went on it. I took off and squeezed the throttle and went through the gears being careful not to spin up the tires. I got the bike up to full speed and shifted into sixth gear as I went through the mile marker. I came out the other side and new from my speedo and tach that I backed up the record. The official speed was 149.950 MPH and I couldn't have been happier. We stayed around for Thursday and were going to test to see if we could break the partial streamline record as well which stands at 152MPH. We did one run at 151.500 MPH and then called it quits.
I want to say it was an incredible week of landspeed racing. The salt is like nothing you ever raced on before, and their are so many factors that cause you to lose a little speed here and a little speed there. I found that we need to think through tire spin, cross winds and its effects on my distance to the finish line and drag.....that funny thing that slows you down fractions of a second all the way through the mile markers.
I also can't thank my friend Charlie Benton enough for thinking of me when he thought he wanted to go for a landspeed record. Charlie and I won the Daytona Moto-ST when I was just 16 years old and now at 18 years old we have a landspeed record together as well. I look forward to working on new projects and challenges Charlie comes up with and promise I will do whatever it takes to continue to put us in the record books. At the end of this season I promised Charlie I would autograph the helmet I used to break the record and give it to him to place with the bike which will eventually end up in a museum for sure. Also, a huge thanks to my dad who helped worked through the details and coordinated this week long event. I love you!
Till next time...do what I like to do GO FASTER...
James"the Rocket" Rispoli
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