Dateline, August 31, 2004

Jon & Nancy Wennerberg with their race truck on the Bonneville Salt Flats
Nancy making a Land Speed "pass"
Marquette Couple sets Land Speed Records

Nancy and Jon Wennerberg, owners of Star Industries in Marquette, recently returned from the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah, where they each set world speed records on their motorcycles. Jon has been competing for four years, and this is Nancy’s second year of record attempts.

Land Speed Racing is one vehicle at a time, racing down a straight course for up to five miles, with speed measured over a series of measured miles and then compared to other vehicles’ speeds in the same class. It’s an "amateur" event -- there are no prizes other than trophies -- and the acclamation of fellow racers that understand just how difficult it is to build and race faster than anyone else has ever gone in that specific kind of vehicle.

Nancy’s bike is the world’s only Kawasaki Ninja 250 (cubic centimeter engine) bike that’s equipped with a turbocharger, and was built specifically for this venue by Mr. Turbo in Houston, Texas. The recent event was the bike’s first outing with the new setup -- and the first run down the course yielded a speed of over 112 mph. The next day she drove the course again (in this kind of racing, each vehicle must make two timed passes down the course, and the average speed must be above any pre-existing record), but the turbo system malfunctioned and her speed was about 82 mph. The average speed for the two runs was around 97 -- but, since nobody had ever built such a bike before, the pre-existing record was "open" -- there was no record speed, so her 97.0135 will now be the standard other racers in the class must better.

Following the successful second run each vehicle must undergo an engine teardown so that the displacement can be certified as within the limits for the class, and her bike met the rules -- so Nancy now is the world record holder in "Modified/Partial Streamliner/Blown Gas/250cc" class. Nancy, by the way, also rides Jon’s bike. She was over 185 on the big bike last year, and plans to exceed 200 mph this fall -- maybe even breaking a 210.132 record for her class. She’s currently the fastest licensed female land speed racing motorcycle racer

Jon’s bike started life as a Kawasaki ZX12R "crotch rocket", with a 1,200 cc engine. The bike has been extensively modified -- engine displacement has been increased to 1,320 cc, race camshafts have been fitted, as have been racing exhaust headers and pipe, a lengthened wheelbase (for improved high-speed stability), a custom streamlined body, and even a nitrous-oxide injection system for extra horsepower at extreme high speed. The engine makes about 217 horsepower on (race) gasoline, and the nitrous system adds another 50-70 hp "at the push of a button" -- which Jon pushes only over about 180 mph!).

Jon’s first run down the three-mile-long timed section of the Bonneville course yielded averages of 202, 203, and 204 mph in the three miles -- on gas only, no nitrous. Imagine cruising along, if you will, for three miles, at over two hundred miles per hour -- on a motorcycle. (For reference, it takes one minute -- sixty seconds -- to travel a mile when you’re driving at sixty miles per hour. Jon covered the three miles in about 53 seconds.) "My first run of the meet was great -- just a shakedown run to get me familiar once again with riding at those speeds", Jon said. "It was darn near a ‘one-handed’ ride", he went on, referring to the ease of handling the bike, even at high speed.

After some changes to the bike Jon made another pass down the course, but crosswinds and other conditions made it difficult to keep the bike pointed straight. Jon’s comments: "The bike wanted to go left so much that I was ‘hanging off’ the side and steering to the right ‘way more than I wanted to -- while going at about a buck-eighty-five (185 mph)". That problem got corrected, but then the nitrous system acted up and would make the bike slow unexpectedly in high gear (This is a race vehicle -- Jon doesn’t shift into high until the bike is over 170!).

Things eventually got sorted out, Jon’s crew removed the front portion of the body and the windshield, and he ran in the "naked bike" (no streamlining in front of the rider) class -- where he upped the record (Jon set it in 2003) from last years’ 186.229 to a new average speed of 191.613. His trophy for the record should arrive later this year.

Jon plans to race with the bodywork installed later this season -- attempting to surpass the existing 213.491 mph record in Modified/Partial Streamliner/Fuel/1350cc -- which was set in 2003 by Jim Owen, from Norway, Michigan. Last fall Jon rode the bike to a 216.531 mile one day, but the next morning, on the return run, broke the motor and wasn’t able to back up his record speed. Another goal is to complete two passes at speeds over 225 so that he can attain membership in the Bonneville 200 MPH Club -- Land Speed Racing’s most prestigious group. By the way, if Nancy can break that 210+ record she’ll gain admittance to the 200 MPH Club, and no woman bike rider has succeeded in that in over 35 years.

Jon and Nancy’s race team is "Seldom Seen Slim Land Speed Racing" -- you might have seen their support truck riding around and wondered just who these folks are. Since there are no (monetary) prizes, they are happy and grateful to acknowledge the local support they receive from Public Service Garage, Superior Collision, U P Off-Road and Performance, Signs Unlimited, Design Lines Too, and Raven Graphics. Jon’s bike is built by Mike Dye at Lee’s Performance, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nancy’s was built by Terry Kizer -- he’s Mr. Turbo, himself, in Houston, Texas. If you’d like to see more about Seldom Seen Slim Land Speed Racing you can visit and click on the racing part of the menu.


Blatantly stolen from the Mining Journal Online.