Your start is really important. When the salt is not so good, like it was for Speed Week 2019, it can be subject to a lot of wheelspin so you want to go gentle on the throttle. And never, ever touch the brakes or you'll go arse over tit as the front will dig into the salt. There's a lot of time to slow down after the run, miles in fact, so the idea is that after you get to the marker you want - in this case for Dino it was mile four - you ease off the gas gently. For spectators at the start the view is limited and short as you see the vehicle blazing into the distance in front. But then you get to see all the other entrants get themselves ready, all the sweat and tears, plus you get to see the vehicles close up and all of them are magnificent.
It was then I found out. Dino's speed had only been 135mph at the fourth mile marker. We were looking for another 100mph on top of that… so what happened? There had been a problem - Dino wasn't happy with the run and the bike had lost some oil due to a mechanical issue. We eventually got to Dino and the bike which was already on the trailer. Everyone was looking very serious. Dino explained didn't like the condition of the salt, in all likelihood it had caused the bike to wheelspin a lot so it was difficult to get traction and speed. It was the beginning of the end, I could sense it, but I wasn't to find that out until later that evening at dinner.
After the run we went back to the Wendover Nugget and parked the motorhome up in the car park. The Italians got to work preparing an evening feast. They'd invited a few friends such as Waldo, Larry and Dale from Double D racing. Waldo was the one who was so helpful with tech inspection and the tyres issue.
The team did group suppers expertly, you really felt like you were home anywhere they set up the table. Just like the meals in scenes of the Godfather, only without the elephant in the room that you had all at some point or another bumped off a member of a rival family.
Suzanne and Vidal, Rosaria and Dino's American friends from the US who had been looking after their trailer and organising a lot of the US side of the activities, meanwhile set about the next few hours trying to help Dino source some things for the bike with me. Suddenly, just before dinner Dino with a concerned look on his face asked us to stop. He said he'd decided not to run again, because of the salt conditions and concern for the bike. But then came the 'However…'.
A new direction
Dino knew how passionate I was about running on the salt. He knew how disappointed I'd be so he and Rosaria had been speaking with Waldo who casually mentioned that he reckoned he could get another bike for me to ride within hours. When Dino told me this I thought immediately.. Yes! Let's try this.
It would be complicated, it would require finding the right bike locally, or at least within 200 miles - a huge challenge because Wendover was in the middle of nowhere - at the right price and getting it to the salt flats to be got ready to race and then inspected and then registered, entered and a whole host of other things. It meant me entering a brand new bike with a new number - the works. But I was up for it and so was Suzanne and Vidal. And the dream was on again.
So for the next three hours over the smells of delicious cooking in the car park BBQ Waldo made some calls. He made calls everywhere, to friends, dealers, acquaintances. He showed such a relentless spirit on the case I was humbled by his and his team's willingness to help me out. But nothing came up anywhere close, Las Vegas had bikes but that was 5-6 hours away and we'd run out of time. I started to feel heavy with doubt. But I should have known better.
For some reason or another I've had somewhat of a charmed live in the last couple of years. Since letting my course be decided by fate and just being open to new experiences things have just fallen into place. And so it was again. I overheard Waldo talking to Dale about this bike that he thought may work out. I saw this white apparition of heavenly beauty on his phone out of the corner of my eye and .. it was the one. THE one. I knew it. I felt it. I told him I knew that bike was the one I would ride. What was it? A Gen 2 Hayabusa.
o get the bike race ready the next day. All Suzanne, Vidal, me and Josh had to do was get the bike and bring it to them on the salt flats the same day. A more perfect solution could not have presented itself if I'd had months to plan. It seemed like whatever hand was moving my life, whatever hand was steering my trajectory, was clearing a path and putting just the right people in the right places.Of course I'd heard of Hayabusas, but never ridden one or even got close. I'm not your classic bike nut and I don't know models and makes like the back of my hand, but I do know how to ride them. Once I get on a bike something takes over and the only way I can describe it is that the machine becomes a part of me. When I'm in the zone everything just flows, my heart rate slows and it almost feels like I'm living every moment a few seconds into the future. All my senses are heightened, I'm razor-sharp and I'm aware of everything at once. At its best, it's a peak experience like nothing on this earth.
The bike looked so perfect - a speed machine with the right kind of proportions. As snow white as the salt flats in bright sunshine. I was in love all of a sudden, a rush of destiny overtook me. A tense hour back and forward and Waldo had got it down to a great price. Suzanne and Vidal who were originally leaving the Salts to continue their holiday the next day agreed they wanted to stay on another day and help out. Then it suddenly occurred to me. I was leaving on Saturday, this was Tuesday night.. How the hell was I going to get the bike home? Again Suzanne and Vidal stepped into the breach. I didn't know it but they were nuts about Hayabusa's and had two at home and probably the parts for another two. They wanted to take a Hayabusa to Sturgis next year and this would be perfect. They would buy the bike off me and put it in storage in Dallas awaiting the bike festival.
What incredible people! This cleared away a big obstacle and with that it was straight on to fixing a view time the next morning. Of course, it made no sense for me to buy the bike and do all the paperwork only to sell it a day later so we agreed that Suzanne would buy the bike outright from the owner, register and insure it and do all the necessary DMV administration. I couldn't have asked for a more fitting solution and it seemed to be a win-win. The legends that are Double D racing then volunteered to get the bike race ready the next day. All Suzanne, Vidal, me and Josh had to do was get the bike and bring it to them on the salt flats the same day. A more perfect solution could not have presented itself if I'd had months to plan. It seemed like whatever hand was moving my life, whatever hand was steering my trajectory, was clearing a path and putting just the right people in the right places.
The ride back to Bonneville was extremely straightforward, just one road from SLC to the Salt Flats, interstate I-80. No gas stations to talk of, but lots and lots of salty plains and the odd industrial site, mining for some kind of mineral. I found out later that copper, gold, silver and zinc are mined in Utah indicating the area is hugely geologically rich. But it all just became a blur in my periphery as I had other things on my mind. How fast would the Hayabusa go? Let's just say I got to know that bike a little on the ride back and I had a grin wider than the grand canyon when we finally stopped just off the road that led to the Speedway. I had to take it easy the last 20 miles because I realised there was almost zero fuel left and a real danger of stopping on the highway. That would have meant a huge delay as we sorted that out, so I took it real, real slow.
We got back to the pits on the salt and located Double D racing, the American team who had offered to help out. I didn't realise how much needed to be done but they got straight to it. They put in a kill switch, safety wires, put tape over all the lights, removed mirrors and put a metal bracket over the battery. That needed to be done to prevent it from leaving the bike in case of an accident. In all it took three men four hours to do it all, with all the equipment they had. If you want me to describe the real spirit of Bonneville - it's right there in these guys.
We were rounded up at 8pm by the SCTA crew who have orders to get everyone off the salt by that time. You're allowed to camp just outside the speedway, but no-one can stay beyond 8pm so there's always a dash at that time as people hastily get their belonging and head for the hills. Or Wendover casino town, just over the hill as it happens.
Back to the hotel and the Open Eyes Dream Team were all milling around, chatting and organising meal venues. We were shattered so I said my goodnights and went to bed to look at You Tube videos for the next two hours of what it felt like to go 200 mph, 300 mph or more on the salt flats. I figured it'd be good practice to get my head into speed mode, to get some kind of feeling for the way the markers zip past you when you're on the track, to embed into my brain a visualisation of going very, very fast, for tomorrow. Although there were still of course a number of things that could go wrong and these played on my mind as I listened to the gentle, mellifluous snoring of my fellow roommates. Then eventually I added to the orchestral slumber.
Firstly, we needed to go through tech inspection. There could be any number of minor points that could fail us, the rulebook is as thick as your head and there's probably only a handful of people who know it inside out. Given that we only had two days left to race, we couldn't afford a big failure, so it was a point of failure. Then I needed to register myself, the bike, re-submit medical forms, get numbers made up and get on to the rookie course within the first few hours of Thursday. A lot to do and a lot that could go wrong. Eventually in the early hours I finally slept.
TO BE CONTINUED... Will the bike get to the salts before Speed Week closes?