Of all the colorful characters in the motorcycle world, few polarize opinion as strongly as Sweden's mysterious "Ghost Rider." It's not hard to see why - with five DVDs full of heinous traffic law violations, including 300 km/h (180 mph) wheelies, police baiting and near-suicidal top speed time trials around the Swedish freeway system, he's probably the most famous flaunter of road rules the world has ever seen. And now, his most famous steed, a 499-horsepower turbocharged, naked Hayabusa, is being given away through a website lottery. Only ridden to church on Sundays, it's the perfect practical getabout to take down to the shops.
A little background for the uninitiated: Ghost Rider (widely believed, but never legally proven to be Swedish Wheelie Team member Patrik Furstenhoff, or possibly an amalgam of Patrik and his friends) is an ex-racer, stunt rider and generally rather handy chap behind the handlebars of a motorcycle.
He shot to Internet fame back in 2002 with the release of Ghost Rider: The Final Ride - a DVD video featuring an anonymous rider, clad in black leathers, black helmet and a dark visor, pushing a black GSX-R1000 to top speeds of around 300 km/h on public highways around Uppsala, Sweden. The images of this maniac weaving between traffic and almost magically avoiding lane changing cars and trucks that could never possibly have seen him coming were an instant sensation, for better or worse.
To some, he signified the pinnacle of skill and sheer cojones, an ethereal figure flashing through the grey mass of law-abiding commuters, flipping the bird at traffic police and leading them on high-speed chases until either he tired of the game or the helicopters came out, at which point he'd stop hanging around, hit the gas and vanish.
Of course, to the vast majority of people he was viewed as the worst kind of road menace - the kind with the genuine potential to cause serious harm to others and not just himself. To people looking to demonize the motorcycling community at large, he was a symbol of every reason why these damned deathtraps should be banned from public roads. As a result, the majority of the riding fraternity hate him for the way his actions reflect on bikers in general, while perhaps just being a tiny bit impressed.
But there's no questioning his skill or bravery - even in the legal world, Furstenhoff holds the official world record for high speed wheelstands, hitting a blistering top speed of 215 mph (346 km/h) on the back wheel. Anyone who's taken a sportsbike on a racetrack knows how powerful a force air resistance can be as you approach 180 mph (300 km/h) - the idea of raising the front wheel at those speeds is frankly terrifying. The air itself would be like a brick wall - you'd be hanging onto the bars for dear life, let alone trying to deal with that force getting under the bike and trying to flip it over backwards.
There's also no questioning the credentials of his machinery. The Suzuki Hayabusa was not only the fastest bike ever produced, with early models able to hit 200 mph (320 km/h) before they were reined back in to a governed top speed of 180 mph (300 km/h) in subsequent years - it was also massively over-engineered to make it a tuner's delight.
With relatively few modifications to strengthen engine internals, you could turbocharge a 'Busa engine and draw very serious power out of it - and that's what Ghost Rider did to build his most famous ride - the 499-horsepower, naked Hayabusa turbo in the photos here.
You can see the bike in full flight by searching "Ghost Rider BusaTurbo" on YouTube - we're a respectable publication, we won't link to such shenanigans here, but you can see the bike in question, painted flouro yellow, pulling ultra high-speed wheelies down a runway and then doing similar stunts on the highway.
And now he's giving it away, in a lottery through the official Ghost Rider website. I've already put in my entry - I need something practical to commute on. I wonder if I can fit a luggage rack on it?