Day 5, the final day at the 2019 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials (BMST), was an abbreviated one, giving riders the chance to wrap up any last efforts before the week is out. A number of riders used the opportunity to get the runs in they needed to clinch FIM Land Speed World Records, including Takushi Chikakane of Japan and Ralph Bohnhorst of Germany. As for Hideki Kusunoki, who already claimed a new FIM Land Speed World Record aboard his nitrous-powered Harley-Davidson FXD, it was one more chance to reach the 200-mph mark (321 km/h). Although he did not quite reach it, he did succeed in upping his own record another few miles per hour, reaching an average of 197 mph (317 km/h).
After making runs all week on his unique sidecar streamliner, Ralph Bohnhorst of Germany was able to complete two successful runs on the “Aurelija” for an FIM Land Speed World Record. The Hayabusa-powered machine had been producing too much power for the drive belt to handle, preventing them from reaching the speeds they were looking for. But on the last day, Bohnhorst opted to make two modest passes at what he called “50% power” to seal the record in the class at 179 mph (288 km/h).
“We have a problem with the drive belt,” Bohnhorst explained. “We fixed it. It’s not 100% okay, but for my guys after one week of work, a world record is fantastic.”
While many bikes struggled with stability in the soft/bumpy conditions, the three-wheeled streamliner was remarkably smooth. “In this condition, it’s really perfect,” said Bohnhorst. “It’s completely stable. When we had really strong crosswinds, it was so easy. You could steer with one hand. So the chassis is really, really good and good for much more records.
“This week we learned so much, it’s unbelievable. We have a lot of work to come back next year but we’ll come back. We come back, for sure.”
For Hideki Kusunoki’s Harley-Davidson team, the chassis setup also proved to be the winning formula. Team member Hiro Tamura explained how the Japan-based team achieved their success in Bonneville.
“Three years ago we come here to see the Bonneville race, and also Hiro Koiso, he’s our friend. Then [Hideki Kusunoki] decide to challenge a land-speed record at that time. He spend almost two, three years he spent to build this motorcycle. We got lots of ideas from Hiro Koiso.
“So many people put weight on the machine to make more traction, but this bike is a very light motorcycle,” Tamura said of the team’s nitrous-powered Harley-Davidson FXD twin. “Then we have very nice suspension and we try to get the more traction. On the salt it’s not smooth, not like the street.
“The first day he said it was wobbling and unstable so after that, the guy, his name is Mr. Saito, he’s a specialist for suspension, he checked the suspension, adjusted it. The second day he says it’s very stable and not scary any more. Tuning, adjusting the balance was very important.” Once the chassis was stable, the team pugged in the nitrous and started setting records. Kusunoki’s goal was to reach 200 mph (321 km/h), and it was frustrating to come so close at 197 mph (317 km/h). Will Kusunoki return to Bonneville? Perhaps…
In the final hours of the day, Takushi Chikakane went down to the wire in an effort to complete two runs aboard his special construction turbo-charged 125cc Honda Super Cub. He was unable to attain his goal speed of 100 mph (160 km/h), but like Bohnhorst, merely needed two successful passes to put his name on an open record. On the final pass of the meet, Chikanane reached a speed average of 63 mph (101 km/h) to collect his second FIM Land Speed World Record.
Belen Wagner was another FIM racer who made a final attempt on Day 5. Wagner, one of the most decorated land speed racers in the sport, made a qualifying run on her KTM RS125 two-stroke at 126 mph (203 km/h), but was unable to back it up for an official record.
Text and photos by Jean Turner