Motorcycle driver dies after crash at salt flats
Nearly a year ago, Rocky Robinson suffered only scrapes and abrasions after his streamline motorcycle crashed at speeds approaching 300 miles per hour at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Earlier this week, Cliff Gullett was not so fortunate.
Gullett, a 47-year-old driver hailing from Bozeman, Mont. died when he lost control of his bike and crashed at the 2008 BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials at more than 200 miles per hour.
“We had dinner the night before,” said Robinson, a Grass Valley driver with the Ack Attack team trying to top the motorcycle world land speed record this week. “He had just crossed the measured mile, so they know he was going 237 miles per hour … His tire came apart and he got some air underneath that lifted him and he tumbled real violently.”
“He was a great guy. You know, these things happen sometimes. It’s just terrible. I’d never seen anything like that happen before. With any kind of high-speed racing, though, you make it as safe as you can, you use the experience and knowledge you have and you just give it your best shot.”
The quest for the title of fastest driver on two wheels is dangerous simply in its nature, Robinson said, which is why so many safety precautions are taken. He said Gullett’s bike, which was equipped with a 500cc motor at the time of the crash, was much more lightweight and lower to the ground than the Ack Attack machine he drives, which has twin engines combining for nearly 2,800cc of power.
“The concept is that it’s very small, very lightweight to be more aerodynamic,” Robinson said. “And with that you compromise some safety structure. Our machine is 10 times safer. I tumbled 12 times and was fortunate to come out with just a couple of scratches.”
Robinson was among three teams at the start line late Thursday afternoon, still hoping to take a crack at the world land speed record of 350.884 miles per hour, set in 2006 by Chris Carr aboard the BUB Enterprises’ streamliner “Seven” owned by Denis Manning of Grass Valley. Manning and BUB Enterprises has sponsored the annual speed trials for the past five years.
That same year, Robinson raced to an average speed of 342.792 mph across the Bonneville Salt Flats at the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials in Utah, blowing away the previous record of 322 mph that had stood for 16 years. Two days later, Carr, Manning and company eclipsed Robinson’s record. Robinson chronicled the story last year when he released his book “Flat Out.” It’s available locally at “The Book Seller” and also online at http://www.amazon.com.
But both record-breaking teams expect to be back on the salt this morning, after high winds canceled any runs at the record Thursday night.
In addition to the Ack Attack and Seven teams, Robinson said a third team led by bike owner, builder and driver Sam Wheeler is also expected to make a run at the record today.
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4240.
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