Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Life @ 335km/h: In conversation with Valerie Thompson

Valerie Thompson, motorcycle land speed competitor
Valerie Thompson, motorcycle land speed competitor Valerie Thompson, motorcycle land speed competitor Valerie Thompson, motorcycle land speed competitor Valerie Thompson, motorcycle land speed competitor
Anyone who's ridden a BMW S1000RR at 335km/h has our respect!

Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, American rider Valerie Thompson is hellishly fast on a motorcycle. Riding her BMW S1000RR, the three-time land speed record holder has done 321.62km/h at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2011. And this year, in June, she did 335.20km/h at the 2012 Mojave Magnum 1.5 Mile Speed Trials. With that, Valerie became a charter member of the event’s ‘200 MPH Club’ and her S1000RR is now officially the world’s fastest BMW production motorcycle in land speed racing.

We recently caught up with Valerie for a quick chat and she was gracious enough to take the time to answer our questions. Here are some excerpts from what she had to say to Faster and Faster:

On how she got started with bikes and the bikes she rides these days

I remember being so anxious to get my first bike. I made a deposit on a 1999 Harley-Davidson Sportster at the local dealership, but I had to get my motorcycle license before I could pick it up. It only took three months to decide I wanted a faster bike, so I bought a 2000 Harley-Davidson Fatboy, which I still own and ride. Recently I had the opportunity to present the American built Special Edition of the Viper Diamondback at a Mecum event earlier this year. It was quite a bike, but I did not have a lot of riding time with it. A very powerful machine, I wish I had a 3-day weekend to put it through its paces. The highlight of this year was breaking-in my 2012 BMW 1000RR Superbike at the beginning of the season to a 209.5mph personal top speed!

On what is it that makes her go out and ride bikes at 300km/h, and how she prepares for the inherent danger of riding a motorcycle at those speeds

The need for speed is truly my deepest passion! Some people like to observe, whiles other like to participate. I don’t like sitting on the sidelines, I love the heat of battle and competition. I’ve always been driven to succeed and accomplish my goals. You have to prepare both physically and mentally if you want to be successful. Physically, I stay in shape with a special workout regime, maintain a healthy diet, and get plenty of rest, especially right before big races like Bonneville Speed Week. Next is mental preparation. I take my dog, Reckon, to most events. I spend quiet time with him in my truck in the staging lanes, which allows me to relax and focus on making the next attempt on a new record. Once I reach the starting line on the bike, I focus my mind on visualizing everything I need to do during the run and relaxing with deep breathing.

On her opinion of the BMW S1000RR and its electronics

I can’t begin to describe everything I like about my S1000RR racebike’s performance. It accelerates like a bat out-of-hell and handles like a lady at almost any speed. Most importantly, the smooth ride considering it’s truly a high-performance bike. What I like most about this bike is that I can take it to the track and go 200mph+ then put back the mirrors, license plate and fix a few other things and ride it on the street. Regarding the electronics, track surfaces really dictate how well these sophisticated controls perform. Racing on salt presents very different conditions than asphalt. Overall, the systems work very well, especially for someone buying it for non-racing purposes. There’s simply no superbike available in the same price range that can compare to the BMW S1000RR – it’s easily the best bike I’ve ever ridden, and that goes for both weekend cruising and racing!

On how her racebike is different from a stock S1000RR

This year, I competed in Production classes at most events, so we are very limited with the type of modifications we can make to the BMW. We do have high-performance tyres, bike dyno’d and tuned by Mark at Go AZ Motorcycles. We do change gearing quite a bit with Vortex Racing sprockets between racing venues due to differences in racing surfaces, weather, and distance. We also have some options on the types of fuel we can use, depending on the type of record we are going for and the event’s sanctioning body regulations.

On whether she actually works on her own bikes

I work on the bike regularly, but I utilize a crew chief to handle major modifications and performance issues. I like to keep my thoughts on racing…

On whether she also rides bikes on the street, outside of racing

I ride every chance I get! The weather here in Scottsdale is great bike weather almost all year long. I also present bikes (and hot cars!) throughout the year at some of the countries’ biggest auctions through my work with Metro Auto Auction & Barrett-Jackson. I have a Harley-Davidson Fatboy that I like to ride on the street, though at a much lower speeds.

On whether she’s ever been stopped by the police for going too fast on the street

Yes, when I was younger and thought I was bulletproof! After years of racing, you learn to respect speed, especially on a high-horsepower motorcycle. Plus, I want to put my money behind my race team rather than paying for expensive speeding tickets. I don’t recommend reckless driving practices. If you want to go fast, do what I did, and attend a NHRA sanctioned racing facility and go for it! The street is no place for racing. I stay within the speed limits since riding on public streets is unpredictable, with all the traffic.

On why she chose to withdraw from the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger Project, where she was supposed to pilot a 50,000bhp converted F-104 Lockheed Starfighter

The hardest thing for a team looking to break 800mph in the US is scheduling an approved location with the US Bureau of Land Management. Due to potential scheduling conflicts with my racing and sponsor appearance commitments, I decided to focus on my own team and withdraw from the NAE Project, which was a difficult decision. They have an excellent support crew who will take them a long way to setting new records, but I have to take care of my own staff and sponsors first.

On her all times favourites:
Motorcycle: BMW S1000RR
Car: Aston Martin Vanquish – the new one!
Truck: My Dodge Dualie, it hauls most of my assets
Food: Spaghetti and Sushi
Drink: Wine and Margarita (with Patron)
Music: Lady Gaga and my NOW CDs
Movie: World’s Fastest Indian, of course
Sport (apart from motorcycle racing): NASCAR
Holiday Destination: St. Lucia, Monte Carlo, and the Bonneville Salt Flats
Dog: His name is Reckon (I reckon so…my dog is 5 years old, 5lbs, pure white Maltese and has been on the road with me at the race track since he was 9-weeks old) The president of my mommy fan club!

Thank you, Valerie, for taking the time to talk to Faster and Faster. We wish you all the best for your future endeavours and hope you never stop going fast...!

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