Farewell to the fastest motorcyclist on the planet, Ralph Hudson
Land speed racers are a rare and different breed, willing to put their entire lives on the line for a chance at the immortality offered by the record books, and the ability to look at the world from a perspective and velocity nobody before them has experienced.
Ralph Hudson went faster on a proper sit-on motorcycle than anyone else in history. There are bullet-like streamliners that are faster, but Hudson was out in the wind on his turbocharged, aerodynamically faired Suzuki GSX-R1000 in a way any biker could understand when he made the fastest pass ever recorded on a non-streamlined motorcycle, a 304 mph (489 km/h) pass in 2018 at Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flat on the planet.
In land speed racing, though, you've got to back up a fast pass by doing it in the opposite direction; a way of canceling out wind assistance. Hudson's two-way average was an incredibly frustrating 297 mph (478 km/h). Though he was approaching 70 years old, his work was not finished. The dream of being the first proper motorcyclist to officially break that 300 mph barrier was tantalizingly close.
“It’s great to have gone 300 and to have it officially recognized, but I didn’t do two runs with an average over 300 and get an FIM World Record,” Hudson said following the 2018 Bolivia event. “To know that I have a bike that was capable of doing that but not putting the two runs together is very disappointing. You know, you set your goals and it’s disappointing if you don’t reach them.”
Friends, I've felt the fury of trying to force myself through still air at somewhere around 180 mph (290 km/h). I say somewhere around 180 because I could no longer see my speedometer, my head was being flung about so fast. You don't think of air as having much force to it until you stick your arm out the window at freeway speeds, but at double or triple those speeds it's a ferocious adversary. We can only imagine what Hudson felt in those brief moments of madness.
On August 14, 2020, at age 69, Hudson was at Bonneville going for an SCTA record. Just after clocking a timed mile speed over 250 mph (402 km/h) on the shorter course, a gust of wind caught his bike, sending it into a speed wobble and eventually a high-speed crash. After initially being stabilized in a Salt Lake City ICU, he passed away on September 6.
He's survived by his son David and Girlfriend Leslie Murray, as well as a reputation as a fearless racer, meticulous mechanic and a humble, friendly and generous member of the land speed racing community.
Ride on, Ralph. You might not have hit the arbitrary number you were aiming for, but you were the fastest there ever was, and that takes no small measure of skill, smarts, courage and determination.
Source: FIM Live