|Jon & Nancy Wennerberg on the Bonneville Salt Flats|
Racing conditions were poor, so speeds weren’t as high as the last time the Wennerbergs went to Bonneville. The Salt Flats are actually a lake bottom, and rains the week before racing made for slick conditions the first two days of the four-day event, as the water evaporated. Nancy’s fastest pass down the course on Jon’s bike was clocked at about 136mph --- but traction was so poor that the back tire was spinning almost uncontrollably for almost a half-mile. After the run Nancy reported that "the bike felt like it was hydroplaning the whole time!" Even with the poor conditions she was the fastest woman rider competing at the event.
Jon made two passes on his heavily-modified ZX12R Kawasaki, one at 179.8 mph and the other at just over 180. As was the case when Nancy rode, the traction was limited --- he never could twist the throttle wide open because the tire would just spin and the bike would wobble and weave, not a comfortable feeling at speeds of about three miles per minute. After the first run Jon said "It felt like I was riding on grease. There was a ‘pucker factor’ of about 6.3, all right!" During its’ most recent test on a dynamometer, at Lee’s Performance (Charlotte, NC, where the engine is built and maintained), the 1346 cc (about 82 cubic inches) motor, running on 110 octane race gas, made 223 horsepower at 12,000 rpm.
Nancy let Jon ride her Kawasaki Ninja 250 turbo --- his first opportunity on the bike since the turbo system was installed this spring. "The little motor was pulling just fine," he reports, "with a great hit of power as the boost came up in each gear." But at about 110 mph, after shifting into high gear, "the boost started to come on --- and then the (stock) pistons couldn’t take the stress. One let go with a big puff of smoke, the bike slowed down, and I pulled off the race course even before getting into the timed mile. I knew I must have hurt the engine pretty bad when I saw the fire truck racing toward me!" Fortunately there was no fire, and no fluids leaked onto the race course. And the performance before blowing up the tiny motor (when stock the bike made 30 horsepower; the modified engine was dynamometer-tested at about 55 hp on 117 octane turbo race gas) proves that "we’re headed in the direction we want --- to have the world’s fastest 250 cc bike", Jon later commented. "Over the coming winter the 250 will get custom-made pistons and connecting rods as well as other modifications to help it live a long life --- at the 14,000 rpm speeds at which it runs."
Jon and Nancy’s race team is known as "Seldom Seen Slim Land Speed Racing", and is supported locally by Public Service Garage, Superior Collision, Signs Unlimited, Design Lines Too!, B&R Body Colors, U P Off-Road and Performance, Raven Graphics, Johnson’s Printing Service, and Viosport. If you’re interested in what it looks like to ride a motorcycle at over 180 mph, video from Viosport’s on-bike camera system will soon be available for viewing at the Seldom Seen Slim website.
If you’d like to learn more about land speed racing you can visit www.landracing.com for information and links to other landracing websites.