What happens when you reach your goal of setting a new FIM World Record before the meet is over? You head back to the starting line to see if you can set another one. For Kerry O’Day, who set a new FIM World Record aboard his Kawasaki KLR650 yesterday, that was the case. He opted to take one more run aboard the bike he had been racing at Bonneville for the last 13 years, as he had plans to retire it after the 2018 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trial (BMST) event. What he did not plan for, however, was to go out in a blaze of glory—and a cloud of smoke—aboard the big single.
“Yesterday was really a phenomenal day,” said O’Day, who set a new FIM World Record of 127 mph, upping his own record of 121 mph. “Today I said, ‘well maybe we can go another mile an hour faster or something.’ So we increased the NOS size just a little bit…”
“I get into the measured mile, hit the NOS, the bike screams, and then starts slowing up. I thought, ‘That’s weird. Maybe my NOS isn’t working right.’ I pushed the button a few more times, slowing up, then I’m getting a lot of heat off the engine. I thought, ‘That’s strange. Why am I getting heat off the engine?’ I look down and I’m on fire! There’s flames coming up between my legs! I said, ‘Hmm… I think I better get off course.’ I got off course as quick as I could and as soon as the bike slowed up to about 15 mph I just jumped off of it and let it go crash. Had a nice bonfire for a while. It burned up all the fiberglass and the plastic and the tires and the rubber and the engine. All the aluminum parts are melted.”
Fortunately O’Day was uninjured in the fire. Kerry was very matter-of-fact in telling the story, but his demeanor changed when the charred remains of his beloved KLR650 pulled up from impound. “It’s like losing a kid,” he said, holding a melted piece of the aluminum head in his hand. O’Day had 13 years into the World’s Fastest KLR, and now the once proud motorcycle was a smoldering wreck, shrouded in splintered, black remains of the fiberglass body.
“I was going to retire the bike anyway,” he said. “I just wanted it to look a little prettier going into my museum. But, we got a new world record yesterday. And we went out in a blaze of glory, and with a great story.”
Steve Garn of North Carolina also returned to the course to try upping his own record, and fortunately
fared much better than O’Day. Garn succeeded in bumping up his record by one more mile-per-hour to 117 mph.
“You gotta keep going until it blows up again,” Garn said with a smile. He described Tuesday night’s rush to put a new piston in his Yamaha RD350 two-stroke. “This time it was at the point where it was ready to totally be a bomb. It started chucking the piston right before the flag. So I kept it on and then kept my hand on the clutch just in case it did go, I could pull the clutch in. It made it through the run, but it’s done.
“We’re real happy everything went real well. And we had a great time. The salt’s perfect, real quick
turnarounds this year and everything’s gone real smooth. So we’re really happy this year.”
There were smiles all around at the Saline Yacco pits, where Gilles Pujol was able to put together two successful runs aboard his 100cc two-stroke sidecar motorcycle. Pujol was racing for an open record, (the first to compete in the class), but for the Frenchman, it was a great success to complete two back-to-back passes on the course aboard the highly unique machine for a record of 28.3 mph (45.6 km/h). The project also marked a return to Bonneville for Yacco, the French oil company touted as “The Oil for World Records.” They now have another one for the books!
In the Royal Enfield camp, it was another full day of runs up and down the salt, tuning changes and pure focus. Cayla Rivas and the S&S crew are tireless in their search for speed, and the team has been taking small bites from their first FIM World Record of 132 mph reached on day one. The 18-year-old reached an astounding speed of 158 mph (254 km/h) at the end of the day aboard the 650 Twin.
While most teams are ready to call it a week, there are a few still planning to make Hail Mary passes tomorrow on the final day of competition. With runs only going until noon, it will be a true sprint to the finish. Takushi Chikakane is still toiling away on his Honda 125, striving for the 100-mph mark. In Al Lamb’s Dallas Honda camp, Erin Okonek and crew are chasing 200 mph aboard their Honda CBR1000SP1.
Story and Photos by Jean Turner