World Record holder Ralph Hudson has succumbed to injuries sustained in a crash at Bonneville Speed Week
The land speed racing community mourns the loss of Ralph Hudson, legendary land speed racer and FIM World Record holder. Hudson, known as the “Quiet Giant” to his peers, passed away on September 6 in Salt Lake City, over three weeks after sustaining a crash at the Bonneville Salt Flats. He was 69 years old.
Hudson is the current FIM World Record holder for the all-time fastest sit-on motorcycle (non-streamliner) at 297 mph (478 km/h) set in Bolivia, July 2018. It has been Hudson’s dream to set the record at over 300 mph, a dream he shared with fellow competitor and friend Al Lamb. The duo’s back and forth battle in the quest for 300 mph has been an ongoing saga that captured the attention of the land speed community, especially when it took Hudson and Lamb all the way to Bolivia in 2017 to the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world, which offers a much longer runway for racers, a searing altitude of 12,000 feet, and more consistent surface for racing than the thinning Bonneville Salt Flats.
At the 2017 event, Hudson capitalized on the thinner air and longer runway of the Bolivian Salar and bumped the record up to 284 mph aboard his turbo-charged Suzuki GSX-R1000-based partially streamlined motorcycle. The following year, the Alhambra, California resident returned to Bolivia and bumped the record again, this time to a bittersweet 297 mph. Hudson made a one-way pass of 304 mph (489 km/h), the fastest ever recorded speed for a sit-on motorcycle, but was unable to back it up with a return run (which would qualify him for the official FIM world record).
“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.” Hudson had plans to return to Bolivia to finally set the FIM World Record at over 300 mph.
Hudson was competing for an SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) record at Bonneville Speed Week on August 14, 2020 when he suffered a crash after exiting the timed mile at a speed of over 250 mph. A gust of wind sent him into a speed wobble from which he did not recover. Hudson was flown to Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, where he was initially stabilized in the ICU, but finally succumbed to his injuries on Sunday, September 6.
As well as being an accomplished racer, from his road racing days in the ‘70s up to present-day land speed racing, Hudson was a meticulous builder and an all-around great friend to many in the salt community. His nickname “quiet giant” refers to his humble, friendly demeanor off the bike, and his incredibly bold style on the track. Despite his own relentless ambition in racing, he always had time for others, whether they asked for help, or simply stopped by for a hello. Hudson never hesitated to turn his attention to a friend, or even a competitor.
Hudson was the owner of Ironwood, a specialty fabrication shop in Glendale, California that creates custom installations for many purposes, including museum exhibits, unique structures and art pieces, along with elaborate scenery that has been featured in several Southern California theme parks.
Ralph is survived by his son, David, girlfriend Leslie Murray along with many friends and extended family members. Murray stated in a post on the SCTA Facebook page: “Information regarding a celebration of life and a memorial scholarship in Ralph’s name will follow when available. We sincerely thank everyone for their kind words, prayers and support during this very difficult time. Ralph would want everyone to stay strong and keep going fast.”
The FIM family extend their deepest condoleances to Ralph's family.
FIM/Words & Photos Jean Turner