Chris Carr Checks In from Bonneville

Jean Turner | September 4, 2009

BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials wrapped up yesterday in West Wendover, Utah at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Racers saw some pretty decent salt conditions this year at the motorcycle-only week, and the “liner wars” nearly flared up again as Chris Carr and Denis Manning’s BUB “Lucky Number Seven” streamliner began nipping at the all-time two-wheel land speed record this week. Though they didn’t quite crack 360 mph (the current record is 360.9 mph set by Rocky Robsinson in the Top 1 Oil ACK Attack), Carr came dangerously close and holds the top-time of the meet which is a first for him.

We caught up with Carr yesterday as he checked in with us at the conclusion of BUB Speed Trials, and talked about this year’s week of two-wheeled action on the salt.

CN: How did your runs go this week?
Chirs Carr:
I did one run today and I did one yesterday. I did a 351 yesterday which was my shakedown run. They were great runs. Before yesterday I hadn’t ridden in 14 months on the motorcycle and we went 351 off the trailer and backed it up with a 355 today. We aren’t in position to chase the record just yet. It’s obviously not an easy thing to accomplish. So we’ve got some work to do. But we’re encouraged that the record will fall.

How was the bike running?
I experienced some handling issues with the BUB Lucky 7. The bike was wanting to go left the entire run. We did have some cross winds from the right. And that’s what we attributed a lot of the wanting-to-go-left to. But I also had somewhat of a wobble on the front end of the motorcycle. It wasn’t a wobble where you felt like you had to shut off, but that made it a little bit more difficult to steer, but I didn’t fight it very much and it was able to go straight with a little bit of a lean. Today, after some chassis adjustments, the bike still did the same thing if not a little bit worse. But I was able to go about three miles an hour faster. But we still had the same issue and then we had our other problems as well. So it’s back to the drawing board for a while. Whether it’s two weeks, two months or two years, we don’t know. But we feel confident that we’ve gained enough data to learn from. Not only me as a rider, but for the team, as well. We’re headed in the right direction.

And I hear you had a small fire onboard during your last run?
Yeah, but there were no major issues. I wasn’t in any real danger or anything like that. It did affect my parachute so the slowdown did go approximately a half-mile beyond the 11 (mile marker) into ungroomed salt. I didn’t crash the bike or anything like that but we did suffer some fire damage on the decel of the run. But we stopped without wrecking. No damage done to me.

You didn’t ruin the paint job, did you?
It bubbled up the tail pretty good. [laughs] The bike still looks almost new, but it’s got a lot of fire retardant on it right now. We melted some wiring in there and we had some parachute issues because of the onboard fire. The bike has some stuff that needs to be repaired. Hopefully we’ll be ready in a couple weeks for the private meet. (Carr is referring to the Top 1 Oil High-Speed Shootout scheduled for later this month.)

Is there anything new or different with the “Number Seven” this year?
We have new tires that we didn’t have before. And that may have contributed to the handling issues. But it’s just a matter of downloading data and really inspecting the bike to see what’s going on. I was able to ride through it yesterday and today. I went through it high 351 yesterday and then we went a low 355 today, but the issues are similar. And we had made changes. So I don’t know that it’s setup or if it’s chassis… but we’re encouraged.

Tell me about the new tires you’re running.
They are Goodyears. They’re made specifically for land-speed racing. They held their air and they didn’t chunk. In fact, after two runs, they still had the nipples on them. So the tires are solid.

To set a new record, don’t you have to break the existing one by at least one percent?
That used to be the case years ago, but the FIM, you just have to beat the record. Because timing equipment today is more sophisticated and much more accurate whereas 20 years ago it wasn’t the case. So they had the one percent rule in place just for margin of error. Nowadays, the margin of error is much narrower. So the one percent rule has been abolished at least as long as FIM is concerned. That’s my understanding.

Back in 2006 when the 350 mark fell, everyone was already talking about the 400 mph mark. How far off do you think that is?
I think reaching that 400 mph mark is a little bit more elusive than anyone – including myself – was anticipating. From my personal standpoint, my outrun in ’06 was fairly easy, considering. And I just experienced in the last two days some very difficult 351/355 runs. So 400’s a ways off. That’s going to take some time. It’s going to take some real good fine tuning. It’s going to take some really good engineering, and it’s going to take a lot of courage to be very honest with you. Yes, ultimately I’d like to see the 400 mile mark drop and I hope to be the one to do it, but I’m not in a hurry to do it.

It seems like land speed racing is like trail blazing. No one knows what happens on two wheels when you get near 400 mph.
We’re of the mind that we want to creep toward the 400 mph mark. And we’ll learn along the way what’s going to do that. You don’t just try to jump from 350 to 400. I mean I ran 350 pretty easy three years ago, but 355 today was tougher than 354 was three years ago for whatever reason. Part of that attributed to conditions of the race track. Part of that’s attributed to the winds that were out there today that were non-existent when I went high 354 in 2006. But there are changes that we’ve made to the motorcycle since then and we are a little better. We have more power. Our aerodynamic package is better. But the course conditions weren’t quite as good. So we have to weigh all that out. We’re going to have to creep to 400. We’re not going to jump to it.
The thing I’ve told to a lot of people is that we’re not in a hurry to go fast. And that’s kind of a hard thing for some people to grasp. But at the speeds we’re going, the smallest mistakes are very, very drastic in repercussions and we’re hoping that we’re keeping our mistakes at the very minimum at the moment. We’re going to try and take our time to go the speed that we need to go to hold on to the land speed record.

Check out for a day-by-day recap. Also, go to for a complete listing of the times run at this year’s BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials.

Jean Turner | Contributor

A former staffer at Cycle News, Turner continues to contribute to the website and magazine as a columnist and someone we can count on to whip up a few thousand words on an off-road race when needed.