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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Royal Enfield Continental GT proves itself at Bonneville

Rider Nadine De Freitas and Royal Enfield Continental GT at Bonneville Salt Flats.
Royal Enfield and racing pro Matt Capri campaigned two souped up Continental GTs at the Bonneville Salt Flats the fourth weekend in August, with rider Nadine De Freitas. They brought home a new land speed record in the 500MPPS (Modified Pushrod Partially Streamlined) category, clocking an average speed of 97.69 mph (unofficial).

"That is the record for a 500cc pushrod engine bike that is not run on exotic fuel. There is more in it (probably 20 mph) but that will have to wait," explained Kevin Mahoney, president of U.S. distributor Classic Motorworks.

"Racing at Bonneville is not as easy as it might sound. To begin with it is almost a mile high and you lose power because of the altitude. Heat, wind and salt traction plays into it also."

Kevin assigned himself the job of "chief correspondent" from the salt flats for the Royal Enfield USA Facebook page.

You can read his full accounts there, and see fantastic photos that themselves contain informative captions. But, since Facebook can be confusing, here are a few brief excerpts (I hope I have them in order), with links to Kevin's coverage on Facebook. You'll get far more detail in each report (and the photos!) if you click on the links:

First day on the salt at Bonneville. You will note from the pictures that it looks as if we are in the middle of a lake — well in fact we were driving on the Salt Flats through a 8-to-10-inch deep lake of pure salt water... Our rider Nadine and Rajan, the marketing staff member for Royal Enfield, came out early and staked out our pit for us... Our team leader Matt Capri got to the salt about 6:30 a.m. after driving all night from his skunk works in Lomita, Calif. As is always the case in racing we ran into some last minute problems... the injectors in both bikes are not firing. We have a very sophisticated ECU in these race bikes and were having last-second problems getting the units to talk to the injectors...

Traction is a big issue here and getting your bike "hooked up" can be a problem. Because we are not running much horsepower if the salt gets wet (to a point) it won't hurt us... We had a very interesting strategy session with Matt Capri and our rider Nadine... about her riding and bike control strategies. For going in a straight line there is a lot more to this than I ever would have thought... We changed out petrol tanks first thing in the a.m. to add the new corporate logo to the bikes. What started as a routine operation turned into a nightmare. We have parts for every contingency but do you think I thought to put a couple of O-rings for the fuel pump into my suitcase?...

The wind was up and closed the track for much of the day. When we entered the flats this a.m. and drove through the mile wide shallow lake to get to the pit area the wind put our car sideways because of the slick bottom, depth of water and plain force. We got to the pit driving sideways like a sailboat in the wind... Team Royal Enfield is running both bikes in modified 500cc pushrod classes. One for naked bikes and one for partial streamliner bikes. The factory installed 500cc engines in these bikes specially because if we had entered the normal 535cc engines we would be running with bikes well in excess of 600cc...

Finally took our first run today... A Buell Blast ran the record up pretty high in the class that the streamliner is in so we are focusing on the naked bike and when we get another run or two tomorrow we will then move back to partial streamliner... Bike ran only “OK” today. Fueling/timing etc. was pretty good but not spot on in all rpm ranges and throttle loadings. Nadine, our fearless and very patient rider, had to really feather the throttles and roll on power very slowly...

The officials decided to close the track today. It is soft and we are all better off waiting for it to dry up some so it is good tomorrow... The streamliner went through scrutineering today. We had an issue with the clutch and brake levers. As you will see from the picture the fairing is so narrow that we had to cut them pretty short. Also had to lower and cut the handlebars. The rules call for a "ball" on the end of a lever. Matt went to work with a grinder and a hand file and made some "balls" on the end and "Bobs your uncle"!...

You already know what happened next.

Team Royal Enfield with their speeding ticket at Bonneville. From left are Kim Pickard, Paul Runion, Dave Martin, Nadine De Freitas, Wade Wilcox, Matt Capri, Joann Killeen, and Kevin Mahoney.

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