motorcycle memo's w/Tom McCarthy

2019: Lighter and Quicker -- like 1977

Photos by Tom McCarthy

Jaska Salakari's creation has a bright future in Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing.


Will 2019 be history repeating itself from the Jurassic Period of Top Fuel Motorcycle drag racing when the bigger bikes were replaced by the smaller, lighter quicker combinations? This is an interesting question for racers and fans to ponder as the season begins to unfold. Top Fuel motorcycles, during their Jurassic Period of the mid 1970’s, were then inhabited by double- and triple-engine creations that ruled the roost from 1972 through 1976. Then, beginning in 1977, as blower technology improved, the doubles were eventually edged out by 1980, as the single-engine Honda developed by Ron Teson and piloted by Jimmy Bernard showed that supercharged and injected nitro with one motor was the way to go. Mike Gray and his Terminal Van Lines bike took that combination to a higher level and the Top Fuel motorcycles have evolved from this ever since.


So, the double- and triple-engine dinosaurs were replaced by lighter, more powerful and, as a result, quicker drag bikes. The famous and infamous Denco Triple 2 stroker, Russ Collins and his Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe triple, Danny Johnson’s “Goliath II,” Trett’s “Pure Pork” and Carl Ahlfeldt’s Triple Kawasaki – they were all terminated by the Terminal Van Lines bike and 7.0 Bo’ who buried them all.


Is this happening again in 2019? An interesting question, worthy of consideration.


As previously reported here in the pages of Drag Racing Online magazine, on Saturday August 25, 2018, Vesa Lipponen and Jaska Salakari, both from Finland, recorded the first 5-second elapsed times run by two-cylinder, nitromethane-powered motorcycles. Both bikes were engineered and built by Salakari, who incidentally has at least three more bikes of this configuration about to enter the racing ranks in 2019. Lipponen produced a 5.92 and shortly after that Salakari ran a mind boggling 5.83, with his parachute out just after launch. Now consider the numbers and you can see where this is going.


With no transmission because it’s direct drive, and with his supercharger built into his engine cases, the weight savings on Salakari’s bike gives him a TFM that only weighs in at 820 pounds, race ready. Most, if not all the Top Fuel two- and four-cylinder bikes in the USA are 1,000 pounds or more when they are race ready. Some are heavier by almost 200 pounds. Now remember, Salakari’s bike is close to 20% lighter. The Teson and Bernard Honda of 1977-78 was closer to 600 pounds and the doubles back in the day were all tipping the scales at over 800 pounds. The bottom line is this, a lighter machine gets off the starting line quicker, gets to the finish-line quicker and, in short, quicker wins races. Massive miles-per-hour is impressive, but quick ET’s win drag races.


Will we see this as a trend in fuel bike racing in the USA in the years to come? Maybe, that’s certainly worthy of consideration, but the following is an inescapable fact that can’t be ignored.


It was only two to three seasons ago in the class of Pro Street motorcycle that a 7.0 was a very respectable elapsed time, a 6.90 elapsed time was considered stout, and a 6.80 was a miracle pass. Coming into the 2019 season, Pro Street bikes have to contend with Frankie Stotz’s Pro Street bike that rattled off four consecutive 6.60-level ET’s like a bracket bike, to win the Man Cup World Finals and the DME All Star Shootout. In a world of big brutal Hayabusas, Frankie’s little Honda comes in at 570 lbs. He estimates the horsepower at 570 HP, his best 60-foot time is 1.101, his best elapsed time is a 6.60. Smaller, quicker and he’s winning races. Going into this year he is hands down the man to beat. To quote Frankie directly, “Who needs a slick and a wheelie bar?” Will there be more combinations like Frankie in 2019?  Yes!

Frankie Stotz and his dad, Kent, have sparked a revolution in Pro Street after they proved lighter and quicker is more vital to ET than the mighty power of the Suzuki Hayabusa which has ruled the class for nearly a decade.


As a result of these trends, DME headed up by Dimey Eddinger and Andy Sawyer, two of the most prominent minds in Pro Street racing, are building an all new machine based on the GSXR 1000 platform, breaking away from the Busa for the first time in years. Will other prominent P/St teams follow suit? Only time will tell, but without question there will be some very important testing going on in private, away from prying eyes.


As this story was being written during the first week of February 2019, a dozen of the Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley teams of the NHRA are all in the pits out in Pomona, CA, for the Lucas Oil Winternationals, presented by Protect the Harvest. Will a TFH run the first 5 second elapsed time in the history of the sport this weekend? No one can say in advance of the event but Bobby Malloy’s “teen” he ran in testing the weekend prior to the event while making runs in Phoenix is a sign he’s ready to post big numbers. Rickey House and Doug Vancil also ran numbers indicating 2019 will be a great year.


Will the Top Fuel bikes follow the trend of smaller quicker bikes? Not in 2019, but if Salakari’s bikes start migrating across the pond into the USA, he will spark a revolution that no one can ignore. Beginning this year Salakari will start racing in Top Fuel Motorcycle, not Top Fuel Twin class alone. He wants very much to shake things up and he’s not afraid to do so.


Think about it, if Salakari, has a bike shipped to the USA and leaves it here (with spares) he can and will impact T/F motorcycles like no other single T/F bike since the motorcycle of Teson & Bernard. But, never count out the brothers McBride.


Larry’s new bike, which is still in its infancy, all things considered, has great potential under development. Larry and Stevie McBride have been too busy building everyone else’s bikes to really devote their time to refining their new bike “Star.” The 5.611 elapsed time they recorded in November of 2017 was done very early in that bike’s life. How deep into the five’s they will go with it is anyone’s guess but if history has taught us anything about the McBride’s, it is this: they brought their previous build from 6.50 ET’s all the way to 5.70’s over a span of twenty years. They brought Star from 5.98 to 5.611 in less than two seasons.


Think about that for a moment. This season is going to be REALLY interesting. It’s a lot like the late 1970’s all over again for Top Fuel Motorcycles. 



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