“How does it feel running for a speed record?” That the second most common question I receive. The most common is “How fast is it?”. The speed question is easy to answer, the other question is much more difficult.
The drive itself is really short, just a few minutes, but can be quite an experience. Driving the KillaJoule is really easy, pretty much anyone could do it (provided that you are maximum 158 cm/5 ft 2 in 😉 ). You look towards the end of the track, twist the throttle and try to stay approximately in the middle. When you pass the finishing line, you roll off the throttle and push the brake chute button. You slow down over about a mile or two, and when you reach one of prepared access roads you turn off the track. That’s it. It is the easiest part of my “job” (it isn’t a regular “job”, I am paying for this myself). But that said, it certainly isn’t free from emotions.
I am not an adrenaline junky, actually quite the opposite. While it is definitely an experience of a lifetime, and a very privileged position, I find the record attempt runs very stressful and at times outright scary. It is quite claustrophobic and uncomfortable. I am strapped in and can’t move. The pressure to set a records is enormous, and the world is watching. When we get to the starting line, I sometimes just want to run away and go home. Or take a nap because I am exhausted from actually getting everything done on time. But to quote famous singer-songwriter Dolly Parton: My desire to do it was always greater than my fear!
What about the actual record run? Those two minutes when the track is all yours? I wish I could say that it is an awesome big rush that you will live on for years, but it isn’t really. The closest I can describe it as a 2 minute long mix of horror, boredom, and magic. Setting a new record means that I am going faster than I ever have gone before, and that the bike is going faster than it ever has. Accelerating up to a speed where I have been before is typically so uneventful that it is almost boring, but as soon as you surpass that speed you are entering uncharted territory. It is known that stability problems can occur very suddenly, so it is quite nerve-wrecking. The vehicle is also extremely tight and claustrophobic. To be honest, that alone took a while to get used to. The relentless desert sun beating down doesn’t make it any more pleasant. But, at the same time, the feeling when everything works flawlessly is like magic. Years of work finally pays off, and it is like time stops. When I have finished a run, all my nervousness and discomfort quickly vanishes and is replaced by a huge grin. I say, “Well, that was easy, let’s do it again”.
Behind the scenes at Bonneville
Bonneville Salt Flats is 666 (!) miles (~1100 km) from Denver, Colorado, USA, where Bill and I lived before we moved to New Zealand. It takes 12 hours door to door hauling our 30 ft (10 m) racing trailer. Here are a few images from our record attempts at Bonneville Salt Flats over the recent years.
If it isn’t on video, it didn’t happen! With a minimal crew at the track (I simply can’t afford the room and board for more than three people in addition to Bill and myself), I have to take care of the video myself. I simply got tired of the crew forgetting to turn on the cameras, and they got tired of me yelling at them. I have two remote controlled GoPro cameras: one in the driver’s compartment and one on the outside. In addition to running through the procedure to start the bike, that includes about 10 different switches that have to be turned on in the correct order, I also start the cameras.
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