A group of motorcycle enthusiasts who successfully secured two land speed records for the Isle of Man are setting their sights on further glory in 2014.
The Lonan Gentlemen’s Fellowship is set to return for the centenary Bonneville Speed Week on the salt flats of Utah, this time taking two bikes with them with the aim of smashing records in six classes in August.
In 2012 they took just one bike – a hybrid with a Suzuki Hyabusa frame and a Yamaha engine – which they called the Manxman. Originally a 500cc, this will return next year as a 600 along with a second bike which they are calling the Lonan 500.
Paul Hodgson, ‘technical genius’ as he is referred to by the other team members, is currently developing engines for the two bikes. The Lonan 500 is to be based on an old FZR600 – bought locally as a rusty restoration project for £400.
‘The bike will need to still look basically like a road bike. It was a rusty old relic - it’s around 20 years old and had not been loved for many years. We are hoping for 150mph-plus out of it,’ said Paul.
The team hope to travel out a little in advance of next year’s event in August but are at least familiar with the special challenges they will face.
The temperature is 45 degrees or more and it’s 4,500 feet above sea level which makes setting fuel mixtures a challenge and causes the bike to lose 15 to 20 horse power straight away, compared with in the Isle of Man, Paul said.
Moreover, the surface is not the grippiest meaning the speed has to be achieved gradually to avoid wheel-spin and the deceleration also takes time. The rider’s support team may have to cover up to 10 miles to retrieve their rider at the end of a run. Engine cooling is essential in the scorching heat and last time the team spent an hour each morning raiding every ice maker in their hotel and filling up cool boxes for the day’s runs.
The fine salt also gets everywhere including inside the engine itself: ‘We have pistons that have four millimetres of pitting on the surface after a few runs,’ said Paul.
Last time, rider Richard Barks went out to Utah with 12 other team members. This time it is likely to be 10 people including riders Paul Hodgson and Stuart Harvey. The bikes will be shipped out six weeks in advance. Previously they hired a van in Vegas for the seven hour trip to Bonneville.
With slight reluctance, Paul admits the 2012 operation all in cost around £27,000 and with costs nearing £13,000 so far, next year’s trip is unlikely to be any less.
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