Old time Motorcycho Enthusiast Pappy files this report
Bonneville Report, 2009
#997, motorcycle sidecar entry La Poderosa III
We went to the September meet again this year. More chance of rain than in August, but the lower temperatures make denser air for more engine power. The biggest change made this winter was a beefed up cockpit tub, for which I did a lot of aluminum welding. Other changes were a better shift linkage, more rivets to keep the hood scoop on, and reduced wing angle for less drag. Also geared it for slightly higher speed by taking one tooth off the rear sprocket. When putting things back together I found rub marks on the front tire matching similar marks on the frame. The gap there is 5/8 inch, but the tires grow with speed. I'd originally allowed for ½ inch growth, keeping it tight to reduce the overall frontal area of the body work. But the original designed top speed was about 190-200 mph. That explains the burning smell in the cockpit above about 208 mph that I had thought was my imagination. Same deal on the rear tire. Used a sledge on the frame to get another 1/8 inch for a total of 3/4 inch clearance both front and rear. Any more would take a lot of body work.
The team was me, Marie, Jack, and Lizy, just like old times. The weather forecast for Wendover said chance of thunder showers when we left Port Orchard at 5 AM. The aging GMC tow van had its rear end rebuilt and ran OK, but we had to hassle with the bike moving around inside the enclosed trailer and rubbing the thin wall race tires against stuff. Ate some good truck stop biscuits and gravy before heading thru the once-scenic Columbia Gorge. The Petite Bourgeoisie are now allowed to build houses on the skylines and beaches there. In the land of the free where you free if you got the Do-re-mi, and everyone else is free to enjoy the views of the crap you shove up on the hill.
Its a long drive thru eastern Oregon. I like to point out Irrigan Oregon and Dufer to the kids. Baker. Pendleton. Ontario. Our 1 AM refuel is always at Mr. Gas in Twin Falls Idaho. South of there is the loneliest part, the straight two lane Highway 93 to Wells, Nevada. Only a big truck once in awhile, high balling thru the night. Usually we see falling stars and big jack rabbits here, and mice running across the road. It was cloudy this year, and not many creatures. But Marie saw a coyote.
About five AM we came down the hill past Wendover with the sky lit up by casino's, then turned off the Interstate and onto the asphalt road that ends several miles out on the prehistoric lake bed. Instead of the pale white salt stretching everywhere out to the mountains in the moonlight, there was a perfect flat mirror of water. A big desert thunderstorm had hit 12 hours earlier.
While the others took some naps I mostly stood around with the other folks talking out there in the dark, watching the great slow sunrise over the flats and mountains. Then it was hot clear day. All around was a lake several inches deep. The officials now had to calculate how long it would take to dry out and whether to call the meet off. The salt had been mostly dry and in good shape all summer, so based on past experience I figured it could recover in a day or so if the weather held.
In the meantime they did tech inspection right there on the asphalt road instead of out on the salt. About 100 cars and some bikes. I had to beef up a steering angle stop, took an hour and a half of drilling and tapping laying on my back. Burnt up Marie's cordless drill I got her for Christmas. After that we checked into the hotel. Jack rented his own room, he's a pretty high roller now.
Still too wet, so they didn't let anybody out on the salt but decided the meet was on and would start tomorrow. So everyone took the day off and goofed around town. Jack tried his luck in the casinos, immediately lost $50 in a slot machine, then won $30 dollars at poker. I talked to other racers hanging out around their trailers. Some car guys with a big blown fuel lakester had the same Goodyear tires on their front end that I use on my bike. They said they use 70 psi air pressure minimum, otherwise the tires come off the rim. That's more than I was using. Looked inside a large semi-trailer at the Mormon Meteor, a nice diesel streamliner car with about six people working on it. The owner shows me all the missing fingers he has now due to some kind of incredible fire he had last year. They had bought some fancy snake-oil engine coolant, and it turned out to be mostly alcohol, as an anti-freeze or something. An engine failure had turned it all loose. He tells me twice, “The doctors declared me officially dead, but I wasn't.” These car guys are a different breed. Why would you actually strap yourself inside a vehicle? What if something goes wrong?
Everyone headed in a wagon train the couple miles out onto the salt to where the course had been layed out before the storm. We set up our pit and did all the various wrenching and fooling with coolants, oils, and fuel. I also increased the pressure in the tires, I figgered this would also reduce tire growth by pushing the sidewalls out harder. At the drivers meeting there was a memorial for Barry Bryant. The course and officials were ready about noon, and we towed out and got in line.
First run. 1:38PM, Air temperature 79.7 F, Humidity 29%, Density Altitude 5668 ft., Wind Speed Zero. I asked the starter if any parts of the course were better or worse than others due to the wet. He sez "Most of the cars are just keeping it all right down the middle, so I don't know, you can try the sides to avoid their ruts, but it may be wetter there to.” Because of the tires I take off easy to feel for any problems, and just work speed up slowly. The new shift linkage worked good. Couldn't hear or smell anything bad, and so was turned full on entering mile five, the last of the three timed miles. It felt fine, and the gearing was correct. It was below the 11,000 rpm red line which is good because the peak power is more around 10,000 rpm.
When I shut off I let it coast down for a mile and half before turning onto the return road north of the course. The lower rear sides were covered with wet salt mud. It takes a long time for the van to reach me, so I just stand around all alone in the middle of the big desert, looking around at the sky and mountains. When they got there the timing slip sez 213.89456 mph average speed in that last timed mile, five mph over our record set last year. So we went to impound and checked in with Tom Evans. Jack un-did all the body panels and Lizy cleaned and checked the tires and found no sign of any rubbing at all.
The area north of the course and the pits still had a couple inches of water. Our friend Doug from Colorado took some amazing pictures out there of the geologic layered mountains and desert scrub doubled in the huge reflecting mirror, like Alice's mirror.
We got to impound before dawn, with the other folks getting ready for backup runs. If you exceed a record you have to back it up the next morning to be the new record holder. At dawn we head out at the starting line. People ask what it is. We tell them “A motorcycle, with a sidecar attached.” Then they ask “How do you sit in it?” I say “you kneel down” and then they say “Oh, so you can Pray? Ha ha ha.”. Very funny. Real original.
Backup run, 8:39 AM, 62.9 F, Humidity 43%, Density Altitude 4803 ft, Wind 5MPH. Any breeze usually varies in speed and direction down the seven miles of the course. I accelerated quicker this time and was in fifth gear and going pretty fast in mile three. I shifted into sixth, hunkered down real good and let the big motor pull. It gets hard to see the black line from behind the little wind screen so I just focus on hitting between the orange mile markers. I got some kind of shifting cross breeze and correcting for it used up most of the course width, about 50 feet wide. So it was a little hairy at that point but a I was able to keep the throttle open until the shut down point at the end of mile five. I usually roll off the throttle slowly and use a just little brake trying not to burn it up, then sit up just a little to make some wind drag. This time after sitting up I disengaged my tunnel vision too soon. That makes your eyeballs suddenly understand they're moving across the landscape at just a really high speed, and your head is buffeting around pretty good, with your knees 1 and a half inches off the ground. Don't tip over! I coasted clear to the end of 7th mile. What the hell, I paid my money. All there is out there is one porta potty and some black flags across the very end of the course.
Speed was 218 something, averaged with the 213 made for a new world record for 1350cc side car of 126 mph. So that was great, and we whooped it up.
Meanwhile Bob Moffitt and his girlfriend flew over in his old twin engine Piper Apache low wing. You have to land north of the pits because the race course runs on the south side of the pits. So it was a narrow space to land in north of the pits because of the water. He circled a couple times, I thought he was going to wave off, but suddenly he chopped the throttles and dropped down where I couldn't see him anymore behind all the trailers in the pits. There was no ball of flame, and after while he they walked up and shot the breeze for awhile. When he took off we waved up at him and he waggled the wings in response, just like Sky King.
In talking to Pork Pie from Germany, we realized this was actually the world's fastest conventional side hack. The only faster hack of any kind is the McLeash Brothers, at 218 mph, and thats a full streamliner, with a pilot laying on his back under a canopy, strapped in with seat belts, roll cage, and parachute like a car. Its a nice rig but not a conventional open bike like mine. And you can't bail out.
After measuring the motor displacement to get he record certified we washed salt off stuff, packed the pit up and around noon headed out on the long ride back thru the High Desert. At the Snake River canyon overlook at Twin Falls, Idaho the same baby lizard as last year was still there basking on a rock. For diversion we cut thru downtown Pendleton, the world famous rodeo was happening. Saw the sidewalks and roads crowded with cow pokes, country music fans, big hats, hawkers, and other local color. Ask Jack.
So it was a good success really, although the rain shortened the event so we only got to make two passes, we at least got to run. We've had fun out there over the years with wind storms, dust storms, lightening bolts every where, horizontal rain, but have never got completely canceled. Jack and Lizy had not been for a few years and seemed to enjoy most of it. A long drive but we had some good luck, and adventures seeing natures wonders and meeting different folks.