In Search of a New Record

What started this adventure 4 years ago was a discussion about whether a CBX could go 200 mph.  Four years later, I think I know the answer.  Although we have not done it, for the very first time, I think it can be done.  Yes, I do believe a turbocharged CBX can reach 200 mph.  I did not expect to get there this year but I wanted to get closer than we had in years past, and we did.  Here’s how things went this year.

This year’s engine was a 1270cc monster motor.  To make a 1270 motor, you combine the stock stroke with a 71 mm bore.  The larger sleeves require the cases to be bored for them to fit.  Originally we planned to use a set of MTC turbo pistons. That plan went down the tubes when we discovered the pistons had been manufactured incorrectly.  MTC stood by their product and refunded our money.  Next a call was placed to JE Pistons, a week later we had a set of 8:1 flat top turbo pistons.  The pistons were hung on a set of Carrillo rods.  We chose aluminum buttons to keep the pins in place on the pistons.  An S&S Super “E” carb was chosen over the Zenith carb used in 2001.  The Super “E” has a 1 7/8 venturi; the Zenith had a 1 5/8 venturi. 

To help air flow, we smoothed out the casting marks in the intake and exhaust ports.  A set of Kibble White valve springs were provided by Mike Donndelinger at Donndelinger Racing & Development.  The stronger springs are needed to keep the valves seated do to the increased intake manifold pressure during boost conditions.  Mark Miller hooked us up with a set of 10mm cylinder studs to replace all the 8 mm studs.  This modification requires the cases to be drilled and tapped for the larger studs.  Our machinist did not drill and tap them square to the deck and we had problems assembling the cylinders and head to the cases.  Additionally, the bigger studs require the stud bolt through holes in the head and cylinders to be enlarged.

On a side note, I rescued a CB400A a few years ago and we turned it into a pit bike.  Everybody involved with the CBX would look at this POS and laugh.  However, almost everybody in attendance rode it around the pits, to the bathroom or to the registration area.  It was a big hit; never left anybody stranded and was fun to ride.  

I left Houston on Wednesday morning, stopped in Austin to pick up David.  We then drove to Midland where we picked up my brother Glenn.  From there we drove straight through 32 hours in all to arrive at Bonneville Thursday night.

It is hard to describe what Speedweek is like.  It’s a “hodge-podge” of vehicles some fast some slow, there’s something there for everybody.  This year there were over 600 entries.  On Friday, all the participants are trying to get their pits set up, their vehicle through Tech inspection and ready to run.  The lines are very long, as each car, truck and motorcycle must be inspected.  We waited about 4 hours in Tech this year, not as long as last time.  The real waiting starts once they start running the cars down the tracks.  On Saturday and Sunday, before anybody has broken their toys and gone home, the wait can be 5 to 6 hours just to make one run.  Starting on Monday, you may get in two runs a day. By Wednesday, you can get in 3 or 4 runs a day if your toy’s still running.  By now the pits are half empty.  On Thursday, you can just loop around and run all you want.

We made it through Tech without any problems other than the Inspector sending the truck and trailer to the pit when it needed to be with the bike.  We quickly got the equipment back to Tech and got the bike inspected and approved.  Additional items they check for at Tech are a fire extinguisher and CB radio for the Crew vehicle.  While we were in Tech, Mickey Cohen and Bill Hertling arrived.  They rode in from the East Coast to experience Bonneville and help out.

Saturday is when the racing starts, it starts right after the drivers meeting usually about noon.  Our first run on Saturday was a disaster, the bike handled badly and David had to back off to keep from losing control.  The bike was violently shaking the rear at speed.  We ran 131.6 in the mile, not bad for a shakedown run but we needed to find out what was causing it to handle poorly.  We were not sure if the handling problem was caused by the changes made to the forks, the front fender or the new tail section.  At this point, it was late in the day and we called it a night and left for the hotel.  At the hotel, we caught up with Mike Donndelinger, Jim Donndelinger (Mike’s Dad) and Pete Ruff.  We discussed the poor handling problems and entered into a brainstorming session on options.  We agreed that one of the first things to check was the front end “sag”.  We agreed to meet at the pit in the morning and try to correct and adjust the bikes suspension.

For those of you that don’t know, Mike Donndelinger does design and engineering work pertaining to motorcycles and motorcycle suspension.  Mike set up the forks on the Bonneville bike, his own Tyrantasauras X race bike and offers this service to performance minded enthusiasts.  He has an extensive knowledge of motorcycle suspension design and years of practical experience gained from many forms of motorcycle racing.

We all met Sunday morning at the pit area and while attempting to set the “sag” on the front forks, we discovered the steering head bearings were loose.  Not a little loose but about a ¼ inch loose!  The next several hours were spent adjusting the steering head bearings and setting up the suspension.  Additionally, in case we might need them, we made the brackets to fit the old tail section back on the bike if the adjustment to the steering head bearings did not cure the tail shake.  We also backed off on the steering damper to keep from transmitting steering head movement back to the frame.  We also hung some wire “telltales” on the bottom of the frame.  These would help us determine future chassis adjustments by measuring ground clearance at speed.

After everything was adjusted, we put the bike on the trailer and towed toward the starting line.  We wanted this to be an easy pass but also wanted it to be a little faster.  I asked David to keep it below 9000 rpm.  The result was a 172 mph run and a bike that handled well at speed.  This was the fastest we had ever gone on a Sunday and made us feel that this was the start of something good.  We took the bike back to the pit to check it over good.  To our surprise, the steering head bearings were loose again.  We adjusted them and changed plugs.  After looking at the plugs, it was decided to re-jet the carb richer and to add some boost to compensate for the additional fuel.  The next run was a 113 mph disappointment!  We were devastated.  The plugs did not look too bad but the engine was bogging badly in the mid range, not allowing the turbo to “spool” up and pull air into the carb thus leaning out the fuel mixture.  We would not be able to make another run tonight so we headed back to the pit.  When we got to the pit, we found both of the canopies had been blown over and the frames bent.  Some other racers had folded the pieces up and secured them, what a mess.  We made some adjustments to the boost screw, called it a night and went to the hotel.

Monday morning David ripped off a 179.373 mph blast that put the wind back into our sails.  We were ecstatic; this was good enough to qualify us for a record.  We took the bike to Impound and started to work on it, getting it ready for the backup run tomorrow morning.  Since it was early, we decided to get the engine size verified.  This was a 2 hour exercise in frustration.  They have changed the certification procedure such that they measure half the cylinders in the motor.  For us, this would be 3 cylinders and they get to pick them.  Luckily, they picked numbers 1,3 and 6.  We took off the seat, tank and coils to allow them access to the cylinders.  They used the “butterfly” device we had made in 2001 to keep from filling the cylinder with liquid.  Displacement was verified at 1268.5cc and they “sealed” the motor with a lead seal/wire device.  This seal makes it impossible to change the cylinders without breaking the seal thus making it difficult for somebody to change displacement of the motor.

Record runs are made the following morning from when the qualifying run is made.  We expected everything to go well and to set the record.  To our surprise, the bike only ran a 173.3 leaving us just short of the record by about 0.2 mph.  We trailered the bike back to the pit for a close examination.  After several hours of checking the bike, we could find nothing wrong and decided to get back in line.  Our second run netted a 172.908 not good enough to get into Impound.  We called it a day and went to the hotel about 6 pm.

Back in line early Wednesday, our first run was 160.6 mph.  Again we checked the bike and read the plugs.  Looking at the plugs we felt the bike was close to leaning out and so we decided to increase the jet size and add more boost.  The next run was a 176.9 mph jaunt, good enough to get into Impound but not what we wanted.  We took a close look at all the data.  Egt was low, boost was low and the plugs looked the same as the previous run.  Since what we had been trying was not working, we decided to lean the bike out a little.  We rejetted several sizes smaller but left the boost the same as the previous run.  We were rewarded with a 186.89 blast.  We were on our way to Impound, and we were happy to say the least. 

At some point during the day, we started to consider if the air flowing around the cylinders was adversely affecting the airflow past the carb intake.  We were running a velocity stack but had an air cleaner we could try if needed.  We decided not to do anything prior to the backup run but would keep the idea in mind for future thought. 

At dinner, we discussed tomorrow’s game plan.  We would back up the qualifying run thus setting a new record and then back off some and let my brother, Glenn and Mike  D get in some licensing runs.  Everybody was in agreement so it was all set.

Thursday morning it was raining when we got up.  The thought that we would not get to back up yesterdays run had set in.  All the way to the track we scanned the skies, there was rain everywhere, it looked bad.  We worked on the bike in the trailer to keep out of the rain.  The rain let up and we headed off to the starting line.  It was raining all around us, they even shutdown the long course because of the rain.  They continued to run the short course and we finally got our chance.  After what seemed like an eternity, we heard “Bike 606 on the short course, 176.597 mph”.  Not as fast as we wanted, but good enough to add over five mph to our existing record.  We took the bike to Impound and got the new record certified. 

At this point, a big burden was lifted from my shoulders and it was now time to relax and have some more fun.  Glenn was finishing his paperwork and getting his leathers inspected so he could get his rookie ride.  Mike and Pete went to the grocery store and purchased the materials to fabricate a scoop.  

Glenn and Mike had attended the rider orientation earlier in the week and were now set to go down the salt.  Glenn went first, needing to run less than 150 mph to get a “D” license.  His first run was a 130 mph pass that left him smiling.  Between licensing runs, Mike started to build an “air scoop” to duct clean air into the throat of the carb.  Mike was up next, his first run was 139 mph.  He seemed pleased with his first trip down the salt, his only compliant was the ride was too short.  We looped around and got back in line.  Glenn got a second pass in at 163 mph good for a “C” class license.  After Glenn’s second, Mike installed the air scoop and started his second run.  He had to turn out around the two-mile mark because the bike was handling badly.  A check of the steering head revealed the bearings were again loose.  During this inspection/adjustment, we determined the cause of the problem and corrected it. We took off to the starting line.  When the bike was started prior to Mike’s third run, an unusual noise could be heard so we shut it down.  Unfortunately, Mike never got a chance to get his “C” license.  The decision was made to not run the motor any more and pack up the pit. 

It is difficult to explain all the things that happened during SpeedWeek.  We spend at least 12 hours a day, each and every day trying to ring the best mph out of the bike.  I made some mistakes and some effort was misdirected, but in the end, we achieved all of our goals.     

I want to thank everybody that had a part in helping us set the record.  It is a long list so I better get started.  First, I thank my wife Elizabeth for putting up with this crazy stuff and me.   Jim Burris, Glenn Neimeyer and Pete Ruff did whatever was needed, whenever we needed it, I appreciate your hard work.  I’m very proud of David Neimeyer for holding on for another record, he is turning out to be a very good rider.  Mike and Jim Donndelinger worked hard getting the suspension sorted out and helping keep the bike running.  As always, Mitchel Banks was there helping get the bike to Tech, running errands and helping take care of business.  Jeffery Banks, Mitchel’s son, helped out when needed.  Mick Cohen and Bill Hertling pitched in to help make a memorable experience.  Richard Horowitz made the trip again and participated in the effort.  Elizabeth, my wife, Kerri Lyons, David’s girlfriend and Glenda Lindeen, my sister were our cheerleaders and “Salt Groupies”.  To me, this is one of the best things about Bonneville, looking up and seeing new friends, looking up again and seeing old friends.  Bonneville truly is special to me.  In addition to all the people in attendance, we have some great sponsors, many thanks to; Redline Oil, I think they make the best lubricants on the market.  Jerry Sutton of Stubbs Cycle Southwest in Houston goes “above and beyond” being a good sponsor.  Donndelinger Racing and Development for the excellent suspension parts.  Tom Martin of KOWA Tools, all the Marlinton Rally folks and Ross Land of Land’s Cycle in Channelview.  

Thank You All!