Motorcycle Insurance Coordinator heads back to Bonneville
Walter Rands-Trevor, Protecta Insurance New Zealand’s Motorcycle Scheme Coordinator, first attended Speed Week at Bonneville in 2012. There he raced a Kawasaki ZX10R and came within 1 mph of setting a record for his class.
This year, he is returning to Bonneville under the team name of WRT Racing to have another attempt at setting a Land Speed Racing record.
Like last time, he is taking a Kawasaki ZX10R motorcycle that has been specially prepared here in New Zealand. In true Kiwi fashion, most of the work done to the motorcycle has been carried out by Walter and his team of mates working in a garage.
The bike he is taking for this trip is a newer version of the one he took in 2012. Preparations on the new motorcycle have taken around 9 months to complete, and have involved completely stripping the bike down and rebuilding it with the goal of going as fast as possible on the Salt Flats of Bonneville.
The engine has received significant attention, and has been fitted with many performance enhancing components. New pistons, cams, and exhaust have been installed, and existing parts such as the engine's head and crank have been modified to help increase the bike's horsepower.
Hurdles to going fast
As Walter found out on his last trip, horsepower isn't the only thing required to go fast at Bonneville. Speed Week is held on the dried up bed of a salt lake, and the surface provides significantly less traction than asphalt. This means that wheel spin is a very real problem, and in 2012 the major limiting factor for Walter's attempt at setting a record was getting enough grip from the Salt.
WRT Racing's new Kawasaki has been modified to help improve traction on the slippery surface. The suspension has been modified, ballast has been added over the rear wheel, and Walter's team are taking a couple of different options of wheel size and tread to see what works best in the tricky conditions.
One of the other unique challenges for racing at Bonneville is tuning the engine for the conditions. Bonneville is located 4,300ft (1,300m) above sea level, which is about 3 times higher than New Zealand's highest racetrack. As it is in the middle of a desert and Speed Week is held during the American summer, the ambient air temperatures can also be very high. These two factors have a big impact on the engine's tune and it's ability to make good horsepower. To counter this, WRT Racing will be running comprehensive data logging and analysis to help them reduce the effects of the altitude and temperature.
Challenging two records
WRT Racing will use the same motorcycle to compete in two classes this year. The first is MPS-G 1000, which is for partially streamlined motorcycles up to 1000cc, and has a current record of 204.9 mph (around 330 kph). The second class is M-G 1000, which is also for motorcycles up to 1000cc, but doesn't allow any streamlining or aerodynamic aids in front of the rider. The record for this class is 185.3 mph (around 298 kph).
Both classes require the bike to run on a control fuel provided by the event supplier (ERC Fuels), and don't allow any fuel additives or other power boosters such as nitrous, superchargers or turbos.
The M-G 1000 class (no streamlining) was the record that Walter came close to in 2012. As you can imagine, holding on to a motorcycle at speeds over 290kph with no windscreen to hide behind can be very challenging!
Best wishes from Protecta Insurance
Protecta is proud of Walter's efforts at Bonneville, as we are of all our staff who are "out there doing it". We would like to wish Walter and his team all the best for their record attempts in 2014, and look forward to you giving the American's "a taste of Kiwi!"
Follow on Facebook
Walter has set up a Facebook group called "Salt Fever" for those who wish to follow his progress. Everyone is welcome to participate, so if you are interested then we encourage you to click on the link below and "join" the group:
Walter would like to thank Protecta Insurance, Bell Helmets, Walker Services, Holeshot, Colemans, Harris Family Racing, and his team Rob MacKichan, Pippa Harris, Kevin Davidson and Kit Greer.
UPDATE September 2014:
In a cruel twist, thunderstorms rolled across the Bonneville Salt Flats in the days immediately preceding Speed Week 2014 and flooded the entire area. With the racing surface under a foot or two of water, the event organisers had no choice but to cancel the event before any of the participants were able to race.
It was a tough blow for Walter and his team, but they are determined to return next year and race at Speed Week 2015.
This picture was taken the day after Speed Week was cancelled, ironically enough in beautiful sunshine. This is the WRT Racing team in front of the world famous sign at the end of the Bonneville access road, which was as far as anyone could venture without getting wet. The water can be seen coming up to the base of the sign in this photo.