The quest for our inaugural Super Streetbike Top Speed Shootout was a simple one-to find the fastest streetbikes in America, as measured in top speed achieved on a standing-start, one-mile racecourse. As the only magazine on the newsstand that gives coverage to extreme high-performance sportbikes, we hear plenty of outrageous claims on this subject. Hang around our online message board (or e-mail in-box) for any length of time, and you'll swear that every liter bike rider hits 200 mph on the way to work each morning and the nitrous or turbo guys regularly blitz their local expressways at a velocity roughly equal to the cruising speed of a Learjet.
Having built and ridden more than our fair share of big-speed sportbikes, we knew that hitting 200 mph in the real world was much more difficult than just bolting on some parts and producing a big number on the dyno. We wanted to challenge all these big-talkers to put their money where their mouths were and invite them to show us just how fast their rides were in something resembling real-world riding conditions. Working in conjunction with our friends at the exceptionally hospitable East Coast Timing Association (www.ecta-lsr.com), who offered up the use of its historic "Maxton Monster Mile" racecourse in North Carolina as a venue, we invited our readers to show up in September for the ultimate "run-watcha-brung" speed contest to determine, once and for all, who had the fastest streetbikes in America, as certified by the ECTA's speed clocks on its standing-start, mile-long top speed racecourse.
In order to ensure the highest possible speeds and encourage the anything-goes hot rodding spirit that this magazine celebrates, contest rules were kept to a minimum. We created six racing classes to accommodate virtually any modern sportbike: three displacement-based categories (600cc, 1000cc and unlimited displacement), plus a power-adder version of each of those classes to make allowance for tuners utilizing turbos, superchargers, nitrous oxide or other special fuels. Ours were "street" rules, meaning that there was no cc-limit-if the bike began life as a 1000cc bike, it didn't matter what the final displacement was; it still qualified to run in the 1000cc class. Aside from some basic ECTA technical rules to ensure that the bikes were safe to compete (basic safety wiring, mandatory steering damper and tether kill switches), that was it for contest rules.
In addition to the rules governing equipment, we created two other key regulations to ensure a fair and competitive event. All competing machines would have to be street-legal and currently registered-this was a search for "America's Fastest Streetbikes," after all, not "America's Fastest Racing Machines." In addition, each bike would have to be ridden by the registered owner-no jockeys allowed. Aerodynamics is of paramount importance at upward of 200 mph, putting a premium on small-sized riders, and quick reflexes are key on such a "short" standing-start mile course. We made a rule requiring that each bike be ridden by its owner to avoid a situation where the best tuners hired the fastest, smallest pro drag racers to sweep the classes.
In the end, a grand total of 38 streetbikes came from as far away as California and Canada to compete for one of the prestigious "Fastest Streetbike in America" prize jackets provided by Joe Rocket for the class winners of this contest. At times the event looked more like a rally of the Turbo Hayabusa Owners of America, as by far the most popular machine there was some variation of that bike. Balancing out all the 'Busas were a few Big Kaws (three brandy-new ZX14s and a smattering of ZX-12Rs, too) along with a bunch of GSX-R1000s, a couple of R1s, a straight-nasty naked Yamaha V-Max, some motards and more. The only type of bike that was underrepresented was 600s. Despite having two classes available for riders of 600-sized machines, when the event kicked off on Saturday there wasn't a single middleweight machine in the paddock-naturally aspirated, power-adder or otherwise-to take part in the competition. You 600 riders out there are weak!
In the months leading up to our event, the chatter on various performance-oriented Web pages was unstoppable. Working off of dyno numbers and gearing charts alone, it seemed like every turbo 'Busa owner in the world thought he could come down and click off 220-plus mph passes at Maxton all day long. But, as seasoned land-speed veterans are fond of saying, "It's easy to go 200 mph-at home!" On the brutal and unforgiving Maxton Monster Mile, big speed isn't so easy to achieve. At the end of the two-day event, just two of those 38 bikes managed to break the 220 mph barrier (ECTA veteran Rich Yancy and stand-out privateer Chris Bletsas), and there were as many blown-up bikes being loaded into trailers as there were riders who broke 200 mph. Even with all the high-horsepower bikes on tap, when we got done and crunched the numbers, only 17 of the 38 riders there made a pass over 200 mph. Looking at the total number of motorcycle passes made that weekend (294 runs), only 22 percent of them were over 200 mph, with the average motorcycle speed at the event coming in at 173.2 mph. (And, remember, these were nearly all liter or liter-plus displacement bikes!) Going 200 mph is not easy, as many of the entrants discovered. Even with huge-horsepower bikes and a moderate level of riding talent, there is much more to breaking the double ton than just tucking in and banging on the shift lever for a mile.
That said, there were a few tuners/riders who absolutely blew us away, with longtime ECTA racer Rich Yancy topping that list with his remarkable 233.936 mph pass that locked up the "Fastest Streetbike in America" title. Riding his stock-wheelbase, turbocharged, Dale Earnhardt Jr.-themed Hayabusa (Yancy's day job is working in Dale Junior's NASCAR race shop), Yancy set the bar high when he clicked off that speed on just the third run of the weekend. What's more, Yancy's runs reinforced for us the validity of our no-jockey ruling. Yancy's bike is the all-time ultimate speed record holder at Maxton, having gone 260.288 mph at an ECTA event last year with the diminutive Lee Shierts in the saddle. Yancy, who stands a towering 6 feet 5 inches tall and outweighs Shierts by a few dozen pounds, too, has a harder time hiding from the wind compared to Shierts, which ultimately cost him nearly 30 mph but made for a much fairer contest. Not to mention the fact that he has to hold onto the bike at those speeds! When Yancy came over to the impound area after his first and fastest run, he turned over his timing slip to us and said: "That was scary. I sure hope that's fast enough to win this event, because I'm not sure I want to do that again!" Luckily for Yancy, a speed of 233 mph was more than enough to take home a jacket, and the enviable title "Fastest Streetbike in America."
Every bit as impressive as Yancy's performance, however, was the riding of North Dighton, Massachusetts, resident Dave Owen, who owned the unlimited-displacement/no-power-adder class with a series of 210-plus mph passes that culminated in a remarkable 215.9464 mph run on his copper-toned, 1507cc 1999 Suzuki Hayabusa. That's right-Owen went that fast on motor alone, without the benefit of turbos, superchargers or even a toot of nitrous oxide-and we looked his bike over very closely for a hidden bottle, but the underseat area was so full of data loggers and electronics there simply wasn't room! A 215 mph all-motor pass is going to be very hard for anyone to beat, even with another year to get ready.
While the unlimited classes were the sole domains of the Hayabusa Army, there was significantly more diversity in the 1000cc categories. Everyone expected the 1000cc power-adder title to go home with Charlotte-based super-tuner and land-speed veteran Lee Shierts from Lee's Performance Center, who rolled an '06 Gixxer Thou off the trailer with a deadly serious, seven-pound nitrous bottle crammed into the extended swingarm. The right tune-up remained elusive for Shierts, however, and 196 mph was as fast as he went on his bike. Instead of the big-name tuner taking home the title, the jacket in this class finally went home with Meriden, Connecticut, resident Don Hass of Last Minute Racing, who went 211.42642 mph on his gorgeous Suzuki GSX-R1000 that was pressurized by a Velocity Racing turbo system. Taking the win in the all-motor 1000cc class was Doug Uminn from Virginia Beach, Virginia, riding his 2003 Suzuki GSX-R1000 to a very solid 176.49827 mph. Uminn started the weekend running in the power-adder class, but with his nitrous system armed, he was just another victim of MSEFS (Maxton Sudden Engine Failure Syndrome). Instead of packing it up, he just disengaged the bottle and switched classes, earning a cool jacket for his efforts.
Lastly, there were the two 600 classes, which were inexplicably vacant for this event. As mentioned earlier, not a single 600 showed up for the first day of racing. Talk about easy pickings! You could have literally shown up with a box-stock 600 of any sort, made a pass at any speed and gone home with a free jacket, not to mention the prestigious (if not exactly representative) title of "Fastest 600 in America." Since none of the boys were man enough show up, it took a woman-Diane Marshburn from nearby Hubert, North Carolina-to saddle up and do the deed in the 600 class. Marshburn showed up on Sunday morning with her custom-painted 1996 Suzuki GSX600F Katana and, after recovering from a few mechanical issues early on, clicked off a respectable pass of 130.33090 mph to take the title in this uncontested class.
Another benefactor of the no-show scenario was veteran land-speed racer Jon Wennerberg of Marquette, Michigan, a member of both the Bonneville and ECTA 200 mph clubs. Sensing an opportunity, Wennerberg showed up at tech on Sunday with a very painfully pedestrian-looking Honda Elite 80cc scooter and demanded to enter our 600cc class. Once he demonstrated ownership of said scooter and proved that it met ECTA safety rules, we had no choice but allow him to enter the event. ECTA rules require that all gas class entrants use track gas, and since the fuel tank on Wennerberg's scooter was not sealed and the gas was of questionable origin, he was ineligible for the all-motor class and forced to compete in the (also uncontested) 600cc power-adder class. Wennerberg clicked off an utterly unimpressive pass of 31.23254 mph, but it was nonetheless enough to win the class and take home a custom Joe Rocket jacket. A Katana and a Honda Elite scooter owning the title for the "Fastest 600s in America"? Please kill us now...
Luckily, the fine folks at the ECTA proclaimed the event a success and would love to have us streetbike hooligans back for another go in '07, giving all of you 600 tuners and riders an opportunity to man- (woman-) up and show us some more representative 600cc speeds. And this goes for all of you guys out there-you can't win if you don't run, so we hope to see even more of you out there on the Monster Mile alongside us next year!