Motorcycle land speed record attempt aims for 530 km/h plus

Motorcycle land speed record a...
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Ernst Henne being pushed away due to the extra long gearing on his BMW 500 in 1937
Ernst Henne being pushed away due to the extra long gearing on his BMW 500 in 1937
The Ack Attack and crew
The Ack Attack and crew
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February 22, 2006 A Suzuki Hayabusa-engined motorcycle – the “Ack Attack” – will attempt to break the 16-year-old FIM land speed record at South Australia’s Lake Gairdner in early March. With conditions at the spiritual home of land speed racing (Bonneville USA) not up to scratch in 2005, Californian-based Mike Akatiff has decided to shoot for the record in Australia, with the initial run planned at first light on March 6. The record attempt will be the highlight of the 2006 Lake Gairdner Speed Trials, which runs from March 6-10. The streamliner, designed by Akatiff and constructed at the Akatiff-owned ACK Technologies (an avionics emporium) in San Jose, is powered by two turbo-charged 1300cc Hayabusa engines producing around 900 horsepower, which are ensconced in chrome moly tubing and a predominantly carbon-fibre skin.

There is a 68-litre ice and water cooling system, as well as dedicated mechanisms to keep the chain, brakes and cockpit at sustainable temperatures. Safety equipment includes a seven-point safety harness for the pilot; parachutes which deploy automatically when the bike exceeds 45 degrees of lean; and low-speed stabilising wheels. Ack Attack, which Akatiff first started building in November 2002, will be piloted on the first run by 62-year-old American Sam Wheeler, who has years of experience in motorcycle streamliners. The current FIM land speed record of 518.450 km/h is held by American Dave Campos, who set the benchmark on the Easy Rider twin-engined Harley-Davidson in 1990. Before that, the record was held by Don Vesco (512.733 km/h in 1978). Unofficially, Ack Attack has already usurped Campos’ record, when Jim Doom went 528.334 km/h at Bonneville in 2004. However, it was not an FIM-sanctioned event. This time, officials from the FIM will be at Lake Gairdner to certify any successful attempt. In addition, the timing traps must be surveyed by a licensed land surveyor, while the timing equipment must be certified for accuracy. If Ack Attack sets a new land speed record at Lake Gairdner, the ambitious Akatiff’s ultimate goal would then be to break the magical 400mph (676.12kmh) barrier. “There are only five wheel-driven, piston-engined vehicles that have exceeded 400mph,” said Akatiff, “and no motorcycle has approached that speed. “To reach this speed we would probably need to switch from gas to mild fuel and run the… longer courses. At the moment, we have the only motorcycle streamliner running with tyres designed for and proven at these speeds.” Akatiff, 50, is co-ordinating a multi-pronged blitz on the FIM records at Lake Gairdner, for as well as the Ack Attack, two other bikes will be unloaded out of the crate in Adelaide on March 1: John Noonan’s 1350cc turbo Suzuki Hayabusa, and John and Joe Amo's 394km/h-plus plus 1000cc machine. Noonan already holds the FIM record for forced induction (and partially streamlined) machines on the Hayabusa, when he averaged 406.893kmh over the measured mile at Bonneville in September, 2004. Noonan will also jump inside Ack Attack after Wheeler.

Lake Gairdner is a dry salt in central South Australia, located 550km north-west of Adelaide. It is 160km long and 30km wide, and intermittently fills with water. It is named after Gordon Gairdner, former chief clerk in the Australian Department of the Colonial Office, London.

The Ack Attack story in much greater detail can be read here.

Evolution of the FIM Land Speed Record

Prior to the FIM, the land speed record was without an official sanctioning body.

From the point it was sanctioned by the FIM, the record has evolved thus.

1937 Ernst Henne BMW 500 274.494 km/h1951 William Herz NSU 500 289.681 km/h1955 Russell Wright Vincent 1000 297.728 km/h1956 Johnny Allen Triumph 650 311.778 km/h1956 William Herz NSU 500 338.992 km/h1956 Johnny Allen Triumph 650 345.426 km/h1962 Bill Johnson Triumph 650 361.410 km/h1966 Bob Leppan Triumph 650 395.362 km/h1970 Don Vesco Yamaha 350 405.425 km/h1970 Cal Rayborn Harley-Davidson 427.267 km/h1975 Don Vesco Yamaha 700 487.084 km/h1978 Don Vesco Kawasaki 1000 512.733 km/h1990 Dave Campos Harley-Davidson 518.450 km/h

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