Simply put, it was the best motorcycle drag race of all time—so far at least. It was a lightning strike of achievement and atmosphere, with all the right players on all the right machines at the right time in the right place to conjure pure magic.
The fireworks at the Manufacturers Cup World Finals presented by Kibblewhite Precision Machining began in earnest on Friday afternoon. Track guru Wade Rich had South Georgia Motorsports Park near Valdosta on point for eliminations of the DME Pro Street Shootout, which began on Thursday.
Sweden’s Rikard Gustafsson was one of many Europeans brought over with help from parts maker Pingel, drywall bead experts Trim-Tex, Dave Dunigan, and the Man Cup. Long thought to be the next five-second Top Fuel motorcycle pilot, Gustafsson had repeatedly come up short in Europe. But not on this test pass, as Rikard went balls-deep into the fives with a 5.89 at 244 mph.
That evening saw a qualifying session like no other, with Larry “Spiderman” McBride leading a flurry of five-second Pingel Top Fuel passes with a US record of 5.72 at 248 mph.
Japanese Harley-Davidson dealer Tak Shigematsu blew away the Pingel V-twin record with a 6.02 and at only 190 mph. With his Don “DJ” Johnson-built-and-tuned Pro Charged nitro Harley, Shigematsu would likely have ran the configuration’s first five had a handlebar not broken off and sent him into the wall on the big end! Bike and rider were mostly okay but were unable to harness that lightning-in-a-bottle moment again the rest of the weekend.
After being knocked out of the DME Shootout early, Frankie Stotz pushed his little Honda 1000 to a 6.70 at 202—phenomenal numbers for the one-off literbike and good enough to keep APE Pro Street number-one qualifier through the next two sessions.
Paul Gast—who at 68 years old is startlingly competitive and innovative—ripped off his first three-second eighth-mile Pro Mod pass, and it held up for number one.
The magic continued on Saturday, with McBride running the sport’s first 5.60 pass—a 5.67. That night he pushed the mph record to a whopping 258.
The little nitro V-twin Pro Fuel bikes have been working toward a six-second pass for the last few years. But like Gustafsson, Pro Fuel rider Kirby Apathy went straight deep with a 6.85 that dropped jaws all around.
Apathy beat Michael Ray in the Pro Fuel final on Sunday. NHRA Top Fuel Harley champion Jay Turner and teammate Tii Tharpe turned back Shigematsu and a slew of exotic European overhead-cam machines to meet in the Top Fuel V-twin final, with Turner taking the win.
Rodney Williford carried the DME Pro Street Shootout-winning momentum on Friday (over Jeremy Teasley) to the APE win on Sunday over Mark Paquette—both bikes running at world-record pace.
Chris Garner-Jones ripped off three-second passes on Sunday to take the Pro Mod final round win over Brunson Grothus. Johnny “Turbo” Dobrin won Real Street over Anibal Merced.
Tommy Saxon made consistency count all the way to the Pro Open win over Keith Browne. Terry Hoke won 4.60 over NHDRO regular Les Stimac.
But Sunday night finished off with the real stunner of the weekend. With Mitch Brown in his first Top Fuel final on Dennis Bradley’s relatively new bike in the other lane, McBride rotated the Earth with a 5.611—nearly a 5.50 pass that hazed the tire at the 330 but kept the front hoisted high the whole quarter mile.
This was the weekend that all other races will be compared to for the next 20 years—until the next greatest race of all times goes down.