Lake Gairdner South Australia Salt Lake Racing 2006
Date: Tuesday, June 27 @ 05:28:06 EDT
Topic: Rally News
By Roland Skate
It was a busy build up to this years speed week at Lake Gairdner. About 6 months ago Trev and I had decided to build a ‘new’ CBX for the 2006 event. This bike
was to be specifically for the salt. To be raced once a year and then taken
around and displayed at various bike displays. So it was to be a no compromise
salt lake racer, but we had a 5 year plan.
As I’d never built a turbo bike before, I had to do a lot of research. I picked
up some good advise and some not so good, but as we had a 5 year plan to bring
the bike up to speed, we would start off conservatively. With the help of Alan
Curran from Cranktech and Glenn Staley from GTS Engineering I put together a
solid engine that should withstand the extra load of a twin turbo set up. Our
mate Phil from Kununurra, couldn’t make it this year as he hadn’t had time to
rebuild his 2 CBX’s that I have ridden for the previous 2 years. He wanted to
help out so he sent us down a set of turbo pistons. He had purchased a new set
of bigger pistons and he said, “would we like the old ones” we jumped at the
opportunity. $1500 worth of Arias 7.1 pistons. If we hadn’t have had these
pistons, we wouldn’t have made it this year. These pistons have to be custom
made for the low compression and have thick crowns to handle the high boost
pressure that may be applied.
Whilst I was building the engine, Trev was sorting out all the mounting of the
plumbing and setting up the chassis.
Once together, the bugger would fire then stall!! We tried swapping all
electrics, checking fuel, but eventually it turned out to be a fuel fouled spark
plug!! A new set of plugs and she fired and ran beautifully. Luckily she did run
as we were on the end of our tether and she was looking good for a dunking in
the dam! Next step was to load her on Trev’s trailer and off she went to Bendigo
for a dyno run.
The dyno run bedded in a few valves and so some re-shimming was needed. For the
2nd dyno run, new coils and leads were fitted and the carb (one 2½” S & S) was
set up in a ball park fashion. After the dyno run the valve clearances were then
re-done and the bike was ready to go.
A fortnight later, Trev, the test pilot, Little Stevie (our umbrella girl) and I
loaded the rent a 3 ton furniture removal van and headed off in search of fame,
fortune and world records!!
Trev had loaded the bike before Steve and I had arrived at his Bendigo home, and
the bike was covered up. The new colour scheme was to be a surprise, with a
grand unveiling at Speed Week.
The rent-a-truck was good. It was a Mitsubishi Canter (knot so squeezy) so us 3
Sumo’s could fit O.K! We travelled a different way this year, up through Mildura
and we stayed the night at Burra.
You’re probably saying where the bloody hell is ‘Burra’? Well, it is in the
middle of no where in South Australia, about 8 hours from Bendigo.
Actually it is a nice place and it’s claims to fame are, it was once a copper
mining town and they say without it at the turn of the last century, South
Australias economy would have been buggered. The mine is now closed and there
are quite a few derelict buildings around and the heritage people are doing some
up. The second claim to fame is that it’s a cropping and sheep grazing and
breeding area. In the 1980’s a stud ram from Burra sold for around $350,000 (a
World record price,) before the bum dropped out of the sheep breeding market.
We checked into the motel and walked to the closest pub, for a few refreshing
pale ales (it was bloody hot afterall!) and a road kill (kangaroo) burger.
Beautiful!! After a feed, Trev went back to bed and little Stevie and I went for
a walk around the town and checked out the architecture of the town and its
other 2 hotels. (strictly for research for this story)
As it was hot and these lovely old pubs did sell alcohol, we thought that we may
sample a few of their different brews, whilst admiring the building!
We slept quite well that night and had the regulation bacon, eggs and tomato
motel breakfast before heading off.
Sunday morning we drove up to the old mine and had a quick look around. The open
cut mine is full of water now and it is an emerald green copper colour. No doubt
a good water supply for the town. The area is very dry and the ground very
rocky. We drove through the southern part of the Flinders Ranges and entered
highway one, just before Port Augusta. At the supermarket, where we were buying
supplies for the week, we met up with Steve Barnett (from NSW who runs a fast
Suzuki 750 waterbottle) and he had just received a call informing him that Lake
Gairdner was under water and that at best we wouldn’t be running until
Oh well, we’d come this far, so we may as well stock up with food, grog and a
have a feed. Speaking of grog; Little Stevie and I went to a ‘drive through’
where I was struggling to open the fridge to pick out my rum and cola cans. I
asked the attendant if there was a knack to opening the fridge? He had an
electronic lock at the counter! Remember in last year story, I had some concerns
about Port Augusta? Well my concerns are becoming stronger!
We had a feed in a roadhouse and filled up with juice. Whilst there we had a
phone call from Kununurra Phil. Although he wasn’t going to be at the salt this
year, he had had a call saying the lake was under water and he gave me a phone
number to confirm. I rang and was told, that although there is 2” of water on
the lake, they were starting to survey the track and we should be running by
We met up with some more salties at the roadhouse and I passed on the news. We
were 80% there so why not keep going. If we couldn’t run the bike at least we
could see the lake with water on it! You have to keep positive!
The drive to the lake was good. Not too dusty and we made good time. We made it
to the lake in 8 hours from Burra, so 16 hours from Bendigo; so that was very
good going. We went to the lakes edge canteen and paid our camping fees and saw
the lake with water on it. Disappointing, but also very impressive. Trev and
Stevie pitched their tents successfully. I didn’t!!! One of my fiberglass bows
broke. I mucked around with it for ages and used up 100 yards of duct tape but
to no avail. Looked as though I was going to sleep in the back of the truck. It
was hot and there were heaps of flys. I hoped that there wasn’t going to be any
mozzies at night! So I cleared a spot in the back of the truck and proceeded to
get out my airbed. I’d brought along a pump for it that plugs into the cigarette
lighter. I plugged it into the truck and it started then stopped. Trev said, it
is a 24 volt system. Bugger, looks as though I’ve blown up my pump and I’d have
to blow up my double lilo by mouth!!!! (some might say this would be an easy
task for me) Maybe a good time to have a beer and contemplate my options. After
the mellowing beer, I decided to walk over to another campsite and ask for
assistance. They didn’t have an airbed pump, but said I could try mine in their
cig lighter on the off chance it may still work after I’d subjected it to double
voltage. It worked!! Things were looking up. I pumped her up and set up my
bedroom. We sat around and contemplated what would happen tomorrow over a feed
and a drink and watched the amazing site of the water moving across the lake. If
you weren’t there you probably wouldn’t believe it. The water on the lake would
go from being on our side to the other within half and hour, then it would be
back on our side. Strange but true.
It was a hot night, so a pretty bad sleep, but daylight came and we had
breakfast and were set to go down to the lake to see what was happening. First
up, the ‘not so squeezy’ truck was bogged in the sand of the campground. We
pushed, shoved and dug and got her out and we headed down onto the salt, to the
There were already a lot of pits set up, so we picked a spot and unloaded. The
salt didn’t seem too bad. A bit damp, but I figured it should be O.K. by
Tuesday. After we’d set up our pit area and unloaded the bike, we headed over
for scrutineering, We passed O.K. and then fired up the bike to take her for a
test down the warm up track. I forgot to mention, that this was also our first
look at the new paint job. It is painted Ford XR6 – pinelime splice yellow green
-- very lairy!
First test and she was popping and farting, Plugs looked good. After doing a bit
of turbo study (from books on the way over) I found that you need to retard
ignition on a turbo. So I retarded it a bit and Trev took it for another run. It
was running much cleaner and the whole shebang was still running! (I’ve built a
few CBX engines over the years, but never a turbo, so it was confidence
inspiring to hear the engine running nicely) Over the day we kept testing and
trying carby and ignition changes to hopefully get her running spot on.
This warm up track only gives us a rough idea of how she’s running as nothing is
like the big white dyno of the long timed track. We’d met up with Rod and Matt
Tingate and Rod spent most of the week with us helping tune. We had help from
turbo experts and other spectators and competitors. The CBX can always attract a
crowd and this ‘new’ one with the twin turbos was a real attention grabber.
The bike stopped a few times on the test track and I had a ride and it did it to
me also. We worked out that it was probably the waste gate opening too abruptly
and then the engine would stall. If we kept it below 9500rpm the waste gate
wouldn’t pop off and no stalling. We learned a lot during the day and the bike
was running better. Still a bit doughy, but linear power. A bit hard to compare
her with anything as we were just running on stock settings, not sure how much
boost was happening as the test on the dyno at Bendigo showed it was running on
3psi. The guage was going up to 10psi, when we took her down the test track. She
felt nothing like Phils turbo CBX on methonal, that I rode last year. Though it
is hard to make a direct comparison. We were getting red line. The power was
linear and sometimes an engine that has a bad flat spot down low and suddenly
kicks in up high feels more powerful than one with a linear power curve and in
reality it isn’t. Back to base for the night. Hopefully Tuesday, they’d have the
track set up and it would be dry enough for a run on the timed track.
The camp ground this year had a fixed toilet/shower block, with 2 cold showers
and 2 toilets and a couple of hand basins running into a septic tank. This year
there were a lot more women (probably up from 1% to 8%) so the toilet block was
unisex. Keep this in mind if you visit, as Trev forgot! After showering he was
bending over getting dressed, as a woman came in the door to be greeted by his
brown eye!!! Little Stevie and I headed to the canteen for a feed. They do a
great job. We had a $12.50 roast lamb and sticky date pudding. Sitting at a
table with some Americans we shared stories over a beer and talked one old guy
into trying the sticky date pudding. I said the name is horrible but it tastes
good. He gave it a try and was wrapped! He turned out to be Sam Wheeler, the
rider of the Ack Attack streamliner, here to hopefully break a world speed
Tuesday morning we had a rider/driver briefing and it was decided that a short
track would be set up. 1.5miles run up and a 1 mile timed section. We were all
invited to take our cars out to the track and see for ourselves how wet it was.
It was very slushy. Hard to believe from our pit area a few miles away on the
salt. From viewing the track we headed back to the pits and Trev rode the bike
to the start line. Steve and I followed in the truck. As usual it was a long
wait from when Trev put his name on the board. Trev had his first run at 3.30pm
and did his qualifying run for his 125 mph licence. Trev road well and the bike
held together. Your first run is pretty scary. You are heading off over the
horizon and you don’t know what to expect. You are listening to sounds from the
engine, and taking in how the carb is performing, does the ignition need
retarding more, am I revving it hard enough or too hard, watching the tacho and
speedo (so as not to go to fast and get a wrap over the knuckles for going over
125mph on the first run) is the bike handling O.K., hand over clutch and finger
over kill button just in case, will she blow up and spit me off! So many things
going through your mind, but Trev did a terrific job and qualified for his
The bike seemed to be running O.K. up top (not quite revving out) but was
spluttery off idle, so as another run wouldn’t happen today, we decided to
tinker with the carb and do a few runs down the warm up track. The Americans
didn’t make it out today on their streamliner as they were still working on it
and they needed a longer track, so were hoping that the warm weather would dry
out the track, so that it could be extended.
One of the team was riding a Turbo and nitrous oxide equipped Buell. He managed
about 170 mph, but burn’t valves or holed a piston. It was his first attempt
with nitrous oxide and all should have been O.K., but he had crimped a fuel line
when he was putting the fuel tank on. This caused a lean fuel supply and when
the nitrous button was pushed, there wasn’t enough fuel to keep her running
We also met up with Col and Al Wilson who had come out to spectate and stuntman
Dave Russell who was there to do a ‘blindfolded’ speed attempt.
Dave riding a Hyabusa and his ‘seeing eye dog’ Richard, riding an SP2, also had
to qualify for their licences, sighted and when they had qualified they would be
able to have a go at the bindfolded record. They were aiming for 260kmh.
Unfortunately over the week they couldn’t attempt the record, because the salt
was soft and traction was a problem. They couldn’t manage 260 kmh sighted,
because of the conditions. Richard stays behind Dave and the two are in radio
contact. Hopefully they’ll be back next year for another go and maybe the salt
will be dry and firm.
A cooler night, so better for sleeping except for some wankers that had music
cranked up loud until the wee hours!
Wednesday morning, Trev did a test down the warm up track and then we tinkered
with the the carb again. Went down to the start line, put Trevs name on the
board and we waited. Trev had a run about 5pm but the bike only scored 108mph
and wouldn’t rev past 7500rpm. Took it back on the warm up track and it ran out
to 9500 rpm up to 4 gear. Hard to believe but true. A dead flat lake, same
temperature and close enough humidity and half an hour after the run on the main
track she ran well down the warm up track which is only a couple of miles from
the main track.
We watched one of the American team break an Aussie record on his Hyabusa at
236mph. An unbelievable 50kg of lead on his swingarm and very delicate on the
throttle, with heaps of wheelspin.
The Ack Attack twin Hyabusa turbo streamliner had a run, but a tilt sensor
failed and the parachute popped out about 10 yards from the startline. The
machine continued to go down the track, oblivious to the fact he was dragging a
chute. Luckily he didn’t crash and the crew sorted out a new switch.
Thursday morning, down the warm up track and queue up at the start line. I
changed spark plugs, whilst waiting and found that number 2 was like new. Must
have been a dud plug. I thought I’d send it back to Mr Nippondenso and tell him
where to stick it!
We waited and waited. The track had been extended slightly so we were hoping
that the streamliner would break a record today. Unfortunately the salt was
still soft. They managed about 250mph (about 100mph down on what they hoped for)
I didn’t want to fire up the bike and risk fouling plugs but as we had to wait,
because of a 3 hour delay because a car caught fire, I thought we’d better check
on how she’s running. Still not firing on number 2! So off came the tank so I
could change coils and leads. When the tank came off I could see that a couple
of leads were on the wrong coil. This basically was causing the bike to run on 4
¾ cylinders!! I connected the leads to the correct coils and she fired up
beautifully and sounded so crisp. We felt like dickheads but also felt relieved
that we finally had it running well. As this was a totally new bike, only
finished off a fortnight before Speed Week, it was hard to know how it should
run and sound. It did have a run on a dyno before we left to sort the carb.
Unfortunately the dyno operator hadn’t picked up the electrical fault. Such is
life. She was sounding good now and after waiting 7 hours at the start line Trev
had his run. He took off mildly and then gave her the berries. She sounded great
and like the Hyabusa guys he had to be delicate with the throttle to avoid
Trev did 125mph at 9000 rpm with stock gearing at only ¾ throttle and the engine
was begging for more.
Unfortunately she spat a shim. Why? I don’t know yet. But I’ll be pulling the
engine down soon. Sad that we’d finished for the week, but happy that she had
potential. We know that we can up the gearing substantially and whilst the
engine is apart we will have the exhaust ports opened up and some bigger exhaust
valves installed and a Z650 underbucket shim set up, so as to eliminate the shim
spitting episode! Anybody out there have some Z650 shims, buckets and retainers
that they’d like to part with for a bargain price?
We had a good week. Hopefully future Speed Weeks will have another track set up
and more volunteers to help get through competitors quicker. We are developing
this bike with a 5 year plan. It is a slow process when you can only do a proper
test on the salt once a year. We learned a lot and now know that the bike has
potential. We are CBX enthusiasts and are not just interested in going fast (if
we were we’d buy a new Hyabusa) but we want to build a fast CBX. The Australian
record is definitely an achievable goal; the world record is another matter. But
with time, money and good old fashioned Aussie ingenuity we’ll be giving it a
shot. Hopefully next year we’ll have 3 CBX’s on the salt.
On the way home we made it to Port Augusta Thursday night about 10pm and found a
motel. Nice to have a good shower and shave.
The roadhouse where we had lunch on the way in on Sunday was all shuttered up on
Thursday night. My feelings of Port Augusta are now confirmed!