Attempting a new FIM land speed record...

Posted: Wed 22 Feb 2006

Lake Gairdner set to host FIM land speed record attempt

A Suzuki Hayabusa-engined motorcycle – the “Ack Attack” – will attempt to break the 16-year-old FIM land speed record at South Australia’s Lake Gairdner in early March.

With conditions at the spiritual home of land speed racing, Bonneville, not up to scratch in 2005, the Californian-based Mike Akatiff has decided to shoot for the record in Australia, with the initial run planned at first light on March 6. The record attempt will be the highlight of the 2006 Lake Gairdner Speed Trials, which runs from March 6-10.

The streamlined Act Attack, designed by Akatiff and constructed at the Akatiff-owned ACK Technologies (an avionics emporium) in San Jose, is powered by two turbo-charged 1300cc Hayabusa engines, which are ensconced in chrome moly tubing and a predominantly carbon-fibre skin. Output is around 900 horsepower.

There is a 68-litre ice and water cooling system, as well as dedicated mechanisms to keep the chain, brakes and cockpit at sustainable temperatures. Safety equipment includes a seven-point safety harness for the pilot; parachutes which deploy automatically when the bike exceeds 45 degrees of lean; and low-speed stabilising wheels.

Ack Attack, which Akatiff first started building in November 2002, will be piloted on the first run by 62-year-old American Sam Wheeler, who has years of experience in motorcycle streamliners.

The current FIM land speed record is held by American Dave Campos, who set the benchmark on the Easy Rider twin-engined Harley-Davidson in 1990. Before that, the record was held by Don Vesco (512.733kmh in 1978).

Unofficially, Ack Attack has already usurped Campos’ record, when Jim Doom went 528.334kmh at Bonneville in 2004. However, it was not an FIM-sanctioned event.

This time, officials from the FIM will be at Lake Gairdner to certify any successful attempt. In addition, the timing traps must be surveyed by a licensed land surveyor, while the timing equipment must be certified for accuracy.

If Ack Attack sets a new land speed record at Lake Gairdner, the ambitious Akatiff’s ultimate goal would then be to break the magical 400mph (676.12kmh) barrier.

“There are only five wheel-driven, piston-engined vehicles that have exceeded 400mph,” said Akatiff, “and no motorcycle has approached that speed.

“To reach this speed we would probably need to switch from gas to mild fuel and run the… longer courses. At the moment, we have the only motorcycle streamliner running with tyres designed for and proven at these speeds.”

Akatiff, 50, is co-ordinating a multi-pronged blitz on the FIM records at Lake Gairdner, for as well as the Ack Attack, two other bikes will be unloaded out of the crate in Adelaide on March 1: John Noonan’s 1350cc turbo Suzuki Hayabusa, and John and Joe Amo's 394kmh-plus plus 1000cc machine.

Noonan already holds the FIM record for forced induction (and partially streamlined) machines on the Hayabusa, when he averaged 406.893kmh over the measured mile at Bonneville in September, 2004. Noonan will also jump inside Ack Attack after Wheeler.

Lake Gairdner is a dry salt in central South Australia, located 550km north-west of Adelaide. It is 160km long and 30km wide, and intermittently fills with water. It is named after Gordon Gairdner, former chief clerk in the Australian Department of the Colonial Office, London.