For those of you who haven´t been on the salt this year and for those who have been there but fell asleep while sitting in the pits ;-) here is a bit of information:
Max (with Lenny Mc Knights help) did a couple of very worthy changes to the liner from last year: the cylinders got watercooled, the parachute system was redesigned, watermist is sprayed over the heads and the front tire now and a new rear wheel and swing arm etc incorporated in the existing design. ( not to mention the million other things that needed to be changed to get it all under cover and working as desired) Max explained the water systems to us and we figured out with a stopwatch how long it takes to empty the watertanks for front wheel and heads - this setting allows us to switch on the cooling after take-off. So after 1 1/2 miles of warm up we switch it on and get that extra cooling. The track was not as good as last years, surface not so smooth and dry, mushy patches in between and only 9 miles long. Still we had high hopes of getting up to high speeds. Before we made the first run we had to verify that the giant "new" reartire will not grow too much at 3 to 400 mph. This tire was fitted to Art Arfons "Green Monster" - designed as a roller - not a driver so no first hand experience about the growth. So the next step was to check tire clearance at high speed: the engines were started ( they sounded awesome and spot-on) and I changed gear up to high gear and revved the bike up to 6000 revs. No clearance problems as the tire does not grow! It was designed for 600mph and has been there before so no problems in this area.
We readied the bike for the first run and found we couldn´t engage low gear! After fiddling around for a while we decided to open the gearbox as there was no low gear anymore! After I opened the gearbox cover it became clear why: low gear had lost all its teeth!!!! The other gears didn´t look good either - big chunks of teeth missing. So we were done before the first run! We decided to get the gearbox out and see if we could lock it in high gear. After two hours wrenching we had it on the workbench and found to our relief that it is possible to rebuilt this box with a locked high gear - all that was needed was still intact and ready to be used again. The complete layshaft was thrown out, high gear engaged, box rebuilt and the lever for high gear safety wired to stay in place. The box went in the bike again and early next morning we rebuilt the rest of the bike. The high inertia of the big and heavy "flywheel" in the back was too much for the box on the overrun so next year we will have a stronger box on board.
Don had the first run and reported handling problems - still he went 199 through the lights. As the bike was not idealy balanced we added a couple pounds on the (light) right side. The clutch took the punishment of taking off in high gear without protest and the engines felt happy as well so we left that alone.
I got the next run and nailed it all the way from the moment "go" but had a constant fight to keep it on the wheels and between the lines so I only made a disappointing 181. I however noticed between that handlebar bending that it was always the left skid that dug into the salt and it was way too much so no reason to think it was caused by weight distribution. The other thing I noticed that I couldn´t keep the liner on the wheels - once there it started to move over slowly on a skid. So I probably left some deep plough marks on the track all my way down to the end.
Next morning we checked the rear wheel alignment - it was out! This was caused by the gearbox crash. We got it back to where it was and changed the angle of the kingpin to improve steering. The rear end was lowered a bit to get the handling better. The clutch was lightened a bit to make it rev higher before full engagement.I got in again and had a run to verify the changes - this time the bikes skids ploughed the salt the same amount each side - no more tendency to fall on the left side but still I could not ride it in a straight line and even went off the track in the second or third mile, wiping out one of the 1/4 mile red flags and fighting the bike back on track and through the lights. 189mph was the miserable result. So the handling issue was solved but the steering left a bit to be desired. The clutch behaved well and did not complain about the extra punishment.
For Dons next run we changed the kingpin angle slightly more and hoped for the best.
Don is a master riding ill-handling bikes as he did 221 mph on his next run so we put in a back-up run which he did at 213 so we had the AMA record at 217 mph in the bag. He still reported that the bike does not handle as good as last year. My hat is off to him for achieving this with a liner not realy handling well!!!
As it was already thursday ( the last day of the meet) we got the notice that the meeting is extended to 3pm - usually its all over by noon. So we prepared the liner for my last run: the clutch was lightened a bit more and the front kingpin angle adjusted right to the end of the slots.Max wanted more power so the engines were leaned a bit. While working on the bike we were told that no more runs would be made on the long course starting at mile 0 - starting only permitted at the second mile. Max wanted to call it a day but I suggested we do the run anyway - I don´t care for timing slips but I wanted to verify the steering so he agreed and we finished the bike for this run. As there was enough miles after the lights I decided to go as fast as possible at least into the 7th mile to see what the handling is at speeds above 250. This might mean a timing slip of 150 but doubling this out the back door if all is well.
The starterman at the second mile was very understanding and allowed us to start 1/4 mile down the course. With only 2 and1/4 mile run up to the lights I thought this will be the slowest ever through the lights.
They tightened me down in the cockpit and as soon as I got the signal the engines were started. They sounded more agressive as ever before and I was smiling as I hit the pedal. The clutch allowed higher revs before engaging and the liner left the line as if it was in low gear! It got on song within the end of mile 1 and roared up the rev scale ever faster. The acceleration is breathtaking but fun. I had the liner up on the wheels, steering quite good and in the center of the track as I saw the green flags coming (start of the timed mile). The tacho showed already 4500 and the needle climbing ever higher - this is going to be MY RUN !!! Suddenly the revs got up to 6000 and no acceleration anymore - backed out, tried again - no push from the rear anymore but the engines sounding as healthy as ever so I knew I had fried the clutch - it couldn´t hold the big power that starts at 4500 after all this punishment of taking off in high gear. So I switched off ignition and coasted through the lights and just to try it I hit the low speed chute in mile seven to see if it all works as desired. Yes - it did. The handling was fine as well - no problems holding the liner upright anymore.
What can I say - we were not allowed to run due to bad weather and politics for 1 and 1/2 days - made only 6 runs but got an AMA record and have a totally reliable bike to play with. The engines are bulletproof now. Messing up the gearbox was our own fault. The handling got corrected and is good for 300 plus miles. The torque of the engines is amazing - this is the only liner in the world capable of starting from a standstill with a gearing of over 300 mph and get up to speed without problems. One day more and we might have done better. One mile more of track before the lights would have given us at least 300 mph on a single gear! As the fastest liner - the Ack Attack also only managed 299 I would say we could have bettered it with an intact gearbox easily. As the bike accelerated hard up to the moment the clutch couldn´t hold it anymore I wanted Max to figure out what speed I did before the lights. At 4600 the bike does 250 mph - so I was up to that speed within 2 1/4 miles on a single gear!!!!! Ack Attack needs a push start before he could even engage 1st gear and needs a very long track, the BUB liner needs a long track as well to get up to speed so I would say we have the only bike that will go over 300 mph within 4 miles. With the right track we will break the existing record - no doubt!
Anyway - the handling is sorted, the power is there, the gearbox will be fixed and we will put this bike where it belongs - the worlds fastest motorcycle!