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Go, Land Speed racer: Days 1 and 2

August 24, 2014

Jaylin Billig

Scooter Land Speed Record holder Jaylin Billig and her two bikes arrived Friday at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah.

If you’re just joining us, Jaylin is looking to set a third consecutive speed record on her Genuine Buddy Blackjack (Maverick), and hopes to set records in two classes on her Honda CL175 (Hattori Hanzo).

Saturday, August 23

The gates opened bright and early Saturday morning. She and her fellow racers’ first order of business was to claim a spot in the pit area and set up for the week.

Once through the gate, you still have to travel a few miles to the pit area and race course. There’s a sloping road leading down to the salt that Bonneville veterans call “the boat ramp.”

Lake Bonneville

Photos courtesy Jaylin Billig

You can see why. Well, back in the Pleistocene it was Lake Bonneville, after all. Luckily, the pit area and race course are high and dry. There’s a slight chance of rain forecast for Tuesday, but every other day of the event looks to be sunny and warm.

Once set up, the next order of business was registration. Jaylin and her fellow racers spent their four hour wait in line socializing and comparing notes. “People you haven’t seen in a year feel like family,” she said.

Bonneville pits

Remember, that’s not snow… that’s SALT!

The white wrist band swapped for a red one, it was then time for technical inspection. Each competitor is given a long list of things to check before presenting their bike (saves the rider and the tech inspectors a bunch of time, you see). “Some people spend the whole week just trying to get through tech,” Jaylin noted.

Tech inspection queue

Maverick (number 210) waits to be inspected. It’s the only bike in the pits with a license plate!

Luckily, Maverick sailed through with flying colors.

Hattori, however, was suffering from a mysterious electrical bug, remaining in the trailer for the time being. Jaylin will deal with that Sunday afternoon; runs on Maverick will be done in the morning, when the air is cool and dense.

Sunday, August 24

Today was the first day of racing. As Jaylin noted on Facebook, “it was a ‘hurry up and wait’ kind of day.” There was another 4-hour wait in line, this time for gasoline (you must use the gas supplied at the race course; if you run on some other fuel, you bring your own).

Maverick on the salt

Since there was still quite a bit of gas in the tank, Jaylin did all kinds of running around, in addition to a shakedown run. “I’m scared of Maverick now,” she confided. The horsepower resulting from the engine modifications is exceeded only by the noise from the exhaust. “People were looking around, wondering where the sound was coming from,” she said. And this in a pit area full of noisy bikes!

The running around didn’t burn enough gas, so she ended up draining the tank before riding over to the gas queue (she made it almost all the way on the gas left in the fuel lines!)

A fellow competitor offered to stand in line for her, so Jaylin went back to look at Hattori. Another fellow competitor, who just happens to be a vintage Honda guru, offered to help troubleshoot the electrics. They discovered the ignition coil was pretty much fried. Jaylin didn’t have a spare, and neither did the fellow competitor, so Jaylin said she’d go to the track announcers on Monday and have them broadcast a call for an ignition coil for a 1969 Honda. In this group, vintage electrical components are “like cigarettes in prison,” according to Jaylin.

Charlie Nichols' turbo-diesel bike

Teammate Charlie Nichols’ turbo-diesel Suzuki blew a turbocharger, but a competitor had a spare

Land Speed racers are like that, says Jaylin. Her teammate had the turbocharger on his turbo diesel bike (!!!) crap out; he didn’t have a spare, but a fellow competitor did, so sure, he’s welcome to it. Another competitor needed jumper cables, so Jaylin grabbed hers and headed over, but by the time she got to their pit space, three people had already stopped by.

Maverick fueled up, the next stop was the pre-staging line. There’s a “fast” course and a “slow” course; the majority of the bikes fall into the “slow” category (Jaylin and Maverick hold the current record in the 175 P-AG class at 61.632 mph), and a bike isn’t released until the course is completely clear. So, another 4-hour wait. Unfortunately, the course closed before Jaylin could make a run.

She’ll be one of the first in line Monday morning.

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