Bonneville Motorcycle Time Trails 2020
Article By: Drew Woodford Photos By: BMST Racers
Originally Published In Torque Performance Volume 1 Issue 2 – Winter 2021
Read The Whole Article On The Torque Performance Web Site
’m Drew Woodford with Buell Brothers Racing. I’m a Land Speed Racer, and this article takes a look at a week of racing at the Salt Flats as seen through my eyes. Buell Brothers has been racing and setting records at the Bonneville Salt Flats since 1995. We ride Buell and Harley Davidson Motorcycles. We’re a grassroots team that goes as fast as possible on a tight budget with many swap meet parts and help from a handful of great sponsors.
There are multiple events on the Salt Flats every year. In our world, the two most popular are the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials and the SCTA Speed Week event. Speed Week draws racers and spectators for cars, hot rods, trucks, full streamliners, and motorcycles. The BMST event is limited to two and three-wheel motorcycles, sidecars, and streamliners. Our team runs at the BMST event, mainly because the entire event is designed around motorcycles. This means the track doesn’t get the big ruts caused by cars spinning their tires. The tech inspectors know bikes and bikers are treated like royalty. It’s an AMA and FIM sanctioned event, so you are racing for National or International records instead of club records. Another reason we do this is that the event feels like a family reunion that you don’t want to miss.
Our convoy left our place in Cave Creek, AZ, with our truck and trailer loaded with three race bikes, a pit bike, tools, spare parts, pit set up, and everything we might need for a week of racing in the middle of nowhere. We were followed by first-timer Dusty Dollar from Arkansas with his Buell and then teammates Scott Schroeder and David Ray. The first 3/4 of the trip was uneventful. Between Vegas and Ely, Nevada, where there’s nothing except ranches for over 125 miles, our truck started acting up. The tach bounced around erratically, and the transmission wouldn’t shift right. After some roadside diagnosing, we figured out that the alternator was failing. This made a 60-mile drive pulling a gooseneck to Ely the longest three hours of our lives. We bought an alternator and swapped it in the NAPA parking lot in time for dinner at Denny’s. All of this put us in Wendover after 10pm, just in time for a shower and bed because days start early at Bonneville.
Saturday was the usual hectic first day, setting up the pits and getting the bikes through tech inspection.
My race bike, dubbed the “Half-Brother” by the old guard, is a modified 883 Sportster running in the MPS-PF1000 (Modified, Partial Streamlined, Pushrod, Fuel, 1000cc) class. The class record was 146.521 mph that I set in 2019. My wife Ashley races the historic “Buell Sisters” bike, a 1995 Buell S2 Thunderbolt in the P-PG1350 (Production, Pushrod, Gas, 1203cc) class. The class record was 136.282, which she set in 2019. Our third bike is a 2000 Buell S3 Thunderbolt called the “Experience Bike.” This machine is dedicated to helping introduce new riders to Land Speed Racing by allowing them to make a pass or two on the historic Bonneville Salt Flats without spending thousands of dollars. It runs in the Run Whatcha Brung (RWB) class but still has to meet strict safety standards.
Sunday morning kicked off with a riders meeting and rookie orientation. To race, you first must go to Pre-Stage and choose between one of four courses. Any rookies, RWB racers, and bikes running below 125mph must start from Mountain 1. This means you’re on the course closest to the mountains and starting at mile 1 instead of zero. On mountain one, you have one mile to get up to speed before entering the timed mile. Once through the mile, you exit as quickly as possible, safely, so the next racer can go. Once you have made a pass over 125mph, you have qualified for a two-mile run up. This means you can start from Mountain zero or the equivalent on the International course. To be eligible for the International Long course, usually between 7 to 9 miles, you have to run over 175mph.
My first pass started out great. The Salt was hard, the course was smooth, and the bike made great power with new Leineweber cams. I counted my shifts, concentrated on the tach, and made a mental note that I needed to adjust the shifter. As I entered the timed mile, I tucked my Biltwell Lane Splitter helmet in tight and worked on my arm, knee, and foot placement. The bike was humming and felt great. It all went south about 3/4 of the way through the mile when the bike died. My first thought was that I had bumped the kill switch, but the tach was still on, so I knew something bad had happened. I pulled in the clutch lever, coasted 1 1/4 mile to a spotters stand, and waited for the chase truck. My average speed was 142mph, even with coasting 1/4 of a mile. We did a quick check of the plugs and could see damage to the front cylinder. After disassembling the engine, we found a valve had popped, trashed the head, and beat up the top of the piston pretty good.
While I was working on my engine, Ashley made her first pass. Ashley said she was gonna make a little 100mph shake-down run but made a pass of 136mph instead, which was just under the record. She followed that run up with one at 137.369, which qualified her for a return run. After making a record run in AMA and FIM competition, the racer must go straight to Impound and then make a return run in the opposite direction. A record is the average of the two speeds. In theory, this eliminates a tailwind helping since you’ll have to run into the wind on the return run. Her return run was a whopping 141.257, which put her average of 139.313 and upped the record by over 3mph.
We had four riders scheduled for the Experience Bike. Pistol Pete Nowaskey from Menomonie, WI, made his runs on our Experience Bike. Our Experience Bike program is usually limited to one or two runs per rider. However, Pete has phenomenal tuning skills, so he offered to hook the laptop up and do this thing. He did some tuning and made a third pass. Pete ran 129.710, 129.703, followed by 130.637, and immediately picked up his Bonneville 125mph coin. Listening to him explain what he felt is precisely why we spend the time and money on this part of our race program.
Monday was a good day. Ashley reset her record with runs of 142.465 and 136.802 for an average of 139.633. Our second Experience Bike rider was David Ray from Phoenix, Arizona. He’s also an EFI tuner and continued to tune the bike with Pete and Jim Higgins. David earned his 125mph coin with runs of 129.054, 130.391, and 129.815 but noticed the bike was having issues. They diagnosed a failed voltage regulator, which is a real problem on a fuel-injected motorcycle. After walking up and down the pits trying to find a regulator, we figured the only option we had would be to drive two hours to Salt Lake in the morning in hopes of finding one. A short time later, Brian Klock stopped by to tell us that his buddy Gary Poh from the Tintic Motorcycle Museum was coming out in the morning and would bring one with him. Gary actually had to hit up five different shops but came through. Bonneville racers are notoriously helpful. Talk about a blessing. Monday night, we went to the “Legends” event at the Wendover Community Center, which is a must if you’re at the BMST. We listened to memories from motorcycle greats Claus Anderson, Al Lamb, Larry Coleman, Erin Sills, Micah McCloskey, and Jay Allen.
Tuesday had its highs and lows, which is typical when racing. I got my engine cobbled back together using spare heads and filed the top of the piston kinda smooth only to find more damage while adjusting the pushrods. After pulling it apart again, we found one of the cam lobe welds had broken during the blowup, and the lobe was spinning on the shaft. Thankfully a fellow racer, Jim Cole, had a welder and was willing to help. Justin Leineweber retimed the lobe, and Jim welded it. Ashley continued to make passes but went 134.579 and 137.100 and then blew it up good. Our third Experience Bike rider was Brandi Hoel out of Las Vegas, she’s an avid rider on the street and dirt, and it definitely showed. Her personal goal was to do 75 mph, but she took off like a boss and went 128.879, followed up with a 129.463 and a 125mph coin. Brandi was hooked immediately and talked to her co-worker, Hiro Koiso, about helping her find something to race. Hiro owns and runs the fastest Harley in the world, so I’m pretty sure she’s in good hands. After racing on Tuesday, Ashley took part in the Women of Bonneville photo with Scooter Grubb, followed by a crazy wind storm that tried to destroy the entire pits.
Wednesday morning, we met up with Matt Friest before heading out on the Salt. He had driven straight through from Knapp, Wisconsin, and was the last scheduled Experience Bike rider. This was a personal highlight for me since I’ve known Matt my entire life. He was the first person to tell me about Bonneville when I was 10 or 11 years old. I was expecting him to run between 80 and 90 because he’s a novice rider, but he surprised me with passes of 121.363 and 127.960, which called for a 125mph coin. He definitely caught “Salt Fever” and bought a bike within two weeks of getting home.
Thursday is the last day of racing, and things usually wrap up pretty early. We started the day off by disassembling the Sisters bike in impound to measure the displacement by the tech inspectors. When we pulled the rear cylinder head off, we found a hole in the top of the piston, in the exact shape of a valve going through it sideways. The valve head had come out of the intake and was sitting in the front of the intake port. The stem had snapped off and was wedged in the front intake valve. When you push things further than they are designed for and do it for extended periods, these things happen, and it’s back to the drawing board!
We love to get as many new riders as possible on the Experience Bike but never want to overbook it and let people down. Therefore we like to schedule four at the most. If we get them all run and can add more, it is a bonus, and this year, we tried to add two more. The fifth rider was Vanessa Klock from Mitchell, South Dakota. She’s the CFO at Klock Werks and loves to ride but had never raced on the Salt. Her first pass was right on point at 113mph. Her second pass didn’t go so well, and we welcomed her to the Blown Up at Bonneville Club. Again, breaking things happen when racing. We packed up the pits and headed back to the hotel to prepare for the racer’s banquet.
The banquet was held at the beautifully restored Historic Wendover Airfield Officers Club. This is always the perfect ending to a week of racing with great food donated by the city of Wendover, UT. Every year at the banquet, Buell Brothers Racing presents a handful of unsuspecting racers with Lucky Charms Awards. It’s one of those awards you really don’t want because it means you had a catastrophic failure. The award is a box of Lucky Charms cereal. Legend has it that if you bring them back, they will bring you good luck. This year, we presented them to Jarron Tyner, Jim Cole, Brian Klock, TK Williams, Mike Garcia, and Vanessa Klock. The second award is the Fritz Kott Enthusiast Award, a trophy made of blown-up parts and $1000. This year’s award was sponsored by our friends at the world-famous Hideaway Grill in Cave Creek, AZ, and was presented to Jim Cole from Parker, Colorado. He and his crew completely rebuilt his engine after a significant failure while continuing to help others. During the banquet, the top honors of the week are handed out. The Top Time went to Hiro Koiso on his Harley Davidson Dyna at 251.484 with a record of 249.443. The SheMoto Scholarship went to Shery Soliz. Troy Nelson from Granby, Colorado, was the Racer of the Year for saving Brew’s life. After the banquet, we made our way to Carmen’s Black & White for good times and lies with our Bonneville family.
All in all, I’d say we had a pretty successful week. We have three blown-up bikes, but we set another record and introduced six new riders to land speed racing. My record was beaten by my friend Keoki Kaolelopono, which took it to 151.311mph on his 1000cc Sportster. We don’t own records, they’re borrowed, and if I have to lose one, I’d rather lose it to a friend. Dusty Dollar ended up going 140.659 on his modified Buell. I’m confident that all five of the Experience Bike riders will be back. That’s a win in my book.
Events like this don’t happen on their own. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a massive shout-out to the volunteers and track crew. These folks spend their vacation time working at BMST with little thanks or fan fair. They are our heroes, and without them, the event wouldn’t be possible. I’d also like to thank everyone that helps out our team. Without funds raised from shirt sales and the support from our sponsors, we would be slower, and the Experience Bike program probably wouldn’t continue. These folks graciously help us, and we are grateful. We ask that you remember them when you’re in the market for parts: Biltwell, Kibblewhite Precision Machining, Twin Power, Worldwide Bearings, Leineweber Enterprises, Baisley High Performance, Moto Stuka, The Chop Parlor, DIY Moto- Phoenix, Hideaway Grill & Roadhouse, Arizona Motorcycle Towing, Law Tigers Arizona, Ramjet Racing.