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Mar 22, 2018

Racer Valerie Thompson Walks Away From 343 mph Crash During World Speed Trial In Australia

Valerie Thompson's 343 mph crash Friday in Australia resulted in a debris field and paint marks that stretched nearly one mile. Photo courtesy of Motorcycling Australia and FIM.

Records and Heartbreak at Speed Trial Australia

March 23, 2018

The third and final day of the World Speed Trial Australia, Monday 19 March, started with a dramatic turn of events when Valerie Thompson and Team 7 Racing made an early morning attempt that ended in a stunning crash. Thompson lost control of the “Bub 7” streamliner, but fortunately was able to walk away from the wreck with only minor injuries. Following the heartbreaking end to Team 7 Racing’s effort, racing resumed and by the end of the day, three more FIM World Records were set.

Conditions were ideal in the morning, as anticipated, and Team 7 Racing set out to make their assault on the all-time FIM World Record, aiming for speeds near 400 mph. Thompson had passed the four-mile marker and reported being at 553.1km/h (343.7 mph) when disaster struck. Chase vehicles saw the tail end of the streamliner come up in the air, which prompted the chutes to automatically deploy. The chutes helped stabilize the streamliner in the subsequent crash, which left a trail of wreckage nearly a mile long.

“Today didn’t go as planned,” said Thompson. “I always said that crashing was not on my bucket list, but I did it. It doesn’t feel very good because at 343 miles per hour, standing here talking to you is pretty, truly amazing.”

Team leader and builder of the Bub 7 Denis Manning and the rest of team were relieved Thompson was able to walk away from the crash. “All the safety stuff we designed worked,” Manning remarked as he surveyed the crash site.

The streamliner left an impressive trench along the edge of the course at the point of impact, but there was no critical damage to the rest of the track. Cleanup promptly took place so racing could resume on the third and final day of the World Speed Trials Australia.

The rest of the day fared much better, with three more FIM World Records set. The first went to blind rider Ben Felten made two successful runs with the aid of his support rider Kevin Magee. The duo achieved an FIM World Record and Felten and his Blind Speed crew were thrilled to reach their goal, and fulfill Felten’s boyhood dream of racing motorcycles at the highest level.

Steve Kell, who set his very first FIM World Record only a day earlier, helped himself to another on day three, bumping up his own record by several miles per hour for a new record of 262.393 km/h (163.043) mph, again in the non-streamlined, forced induction 1600cc class (I.A1.A I.3+ 750cc).

Kim Krebs and Black Art Racing carded the third and final record of the day in the partially streamlined, forced induction 1600cc class (I.A1.B II.3+ 1600cc)

Though the day started with perfectly still air, the increasing winds made things tricky for the racers throughout the day. Krebs was able to put her “Black Art Racing” skills and her petite size to good use, fighting the air current to claim her second FIM World Record.

“This morning I ran a 221 with a 10 mph tail wind,” Krebs explained. “That was my second run for the morning. The first run we had the bigger tailpiece on it and the bike tried to impersonate a fish. It was flipping all over the place. I didn’t want to go fishing. I’m vegetarian. [laughs] We put the shorter, smaller tailpiece on and ran 221 mph (355km/h).”

Krebs turned it around for a return run, which put her into a headwind, but she was able to reach a speed of 206 mph for an average of 343.560km/h (213.478 mph), a new FIM World Record.

“It was quite wild on the way back I think I must have been hitting every squall that was coming down. That’s what it felt like!” Krebs remarked with a laugh. “I’m thrilled. To set an FIM record in Australia, we may not get this chance again, so it’s a pretty proud moment. Greg set a record as well so the only person that’s missing is our third teammate Jim Higgins.”

Event promoter Ruedi Steck of Switzerland was also a competitor at the World Speed Trials Australia, and put in multiple runs aboard his nitrous-powered KTM Superduke R. Despite his best effort, Steck couldn’t quite reach his goal at the event. Nonetheless, Steck was quite pleased with the first-ever World Speed Trial Australia; the Swiss Performance rider was the first and last to run at the event, and received praise from his fellow competitors for bringing FIM World Record competition to Australia. 

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