March 12, 2011 in City

Motorcycle makers rev for new record

Couple hopes their bike will exceed 200 mph
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

John Yeats sits atop a motorcycle Friday that he and his wife, Dexter, built. They are hoping it will break a speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah this summer.
(Full-size photo)

If you go

What: The Inland Northwest Motorcycle Show and Sale

Where: Spokane Fair and Expo Center

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $10 for adults. $5 for children 6 to 12. Free for children 5 and younger.

John Yeats has a serious need for speed.

The self-proclaimed speed junkie has broken records in cars, on motorcycles and in boats. Yeats and his wife, Dexter Yeats, of Hayden, built a motorcycle they hope will break another record in August at the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah.

The goal: To be the first bike in the partial streamline class to go more than 200 mph with a gasoline, pushrod motor.

The bike is being displayed at the Inland Northwest Motorcycle Show and Sale this weekend. The crimson-colored bike is made of lightweight fiberglass and boasts a whopping 300-horsepower, 133-cubic-inch S & S Star racing motor.

Eric Bennett, who will ride the bike in the August speed trials, will be powered by adrenaline and the dream of becoming a record breaker. Again.

“It’s almost like a drug,” Bennett said of driving at the salt flats. “You see that last green flag, you pull that clutch in and hit the kill switch. And it goes dead silent, except the air rushing by your helmet, and you’re done.

“You hit the finish line.”

Bennett, who owns Bennett’s Performance Inc. in Signal Hill, Calif., started racing at Bonneville in 2004. He fell in love with the flats. He said the vast, empty, flat landscape allows riders to do what they love: hold the throttle wide open and hit top speed.

Although Yeats, 70, and Bennett, 37, have only met a couple times, they share a fervor for speed, a love of Bonneville and a devotion to building bikes.

Yeats has been building motorcycles for more than 40 years, he said, and started setting records in 1960 when he teamed up with Jim Brissette to become one of the first All-American fuel dragsters to break the 200 mph speed barrier.

In 1970, he worked on a team that broke the Harley-Davidson land speed record. The streamlined motorcycle reached 265 mph at the salt flats.

Decades later, in 2008, Yeats crashed his motorcycle at 160 mph at Bonneville.

The spill broke several bones, but not his spirit.

Yeats and his wife, who remarried after being divorced from each other for decades, decided to try building a record-setting motorcycle.

The couple were married when he went to Bonneville to take on the Harley-Davidson record back in 1970, but she couldn’t go. Dexter Yeats, who loves the salt flats as much her husband, wanted another chance and persuaded him to build the bike. Lawrence’s Motorcycles in Coeur d’Alene provided many of the parts, Yeats said.

Once the bike was finished, Yeats called Bennett to see if he would ride the bike in this year’s speed trials. He knew Bennett had experience riding in that environment and trusted in his skills.

Bennett was thrilled.

“I can’t tell you how proud and honored I am that I get to pilot that thing,” he said.

Yeats attempted to break the current record of 183 mph last year. That bike didn’t make it to the time clocks because the transmission broke, but a computer readout showed the bike reached 188 mph before the two-mile mark.

After making some changes to the bike, Yeats is confident they will be the new record holders come August.

“We didn’t make it last year,” he said. “This year, we’re going to do it.”


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