It’s race week for the AMRA (opening this weekend at No Problem Raceway) and over the past week I not only have had the chance to cook and share a meal with the “Bull Dog” Jay Turner and Brett “Nitro Hobo” Yarborough, but have had the opportunity to watch what goes on behind the scenes and ask some questions. The average person does not have a clue as to what goes on with a Top Fuel Harley racing team.
A V-Twin Nitromethane Top Fuel Harley motorcycle can be very hard to maintain, and there is a lot of preparation getting one ready to make a pass. After every race event, the work starts immediately after the team returns home.
In no particular order, the bike gets the chain removed, washed, soaked in oil, blown out to remove any debris, and inspected. The transmission is disassembled, and all parts gone through, inspected and replaced if needed.
One item that is always changed is the lower sprague. A new one is installed, and the other two sprague’s are moved up. This is to maintain fresh consistency in the shifting.
If you had a good weekend of racing, rod bearings will be replaced as that is done roughly after every seven passes. Primary drive belts are inspected and changed approximately every race.
Pistons are replaced if needed. As cylinder walls are honed and made larger, Pistons will have to be altered as a regular piston is not installed. The piston first has to be drilled and neoprene buttons are installed around the piston. This is to keep the piston off the walls of the cylinder, to help keep the cylinder in good condition and maintain less heat.
Clutch fibers and steels are ground to ensure they are flat. Eight fibers and seven steels are replaced after every pass during a race. Each one takes approximately three to five minutes to grind. Do the math—with a four-bike team for riders Randal Andras (featured photo above), John “J.T.” Toth, Spevco’s Tii Tharpe, and Jay himself—this could be an all-day job in itself.
The SFI engine straps are replaced every two years as per safety regulations, to help hold the heads in place if the engine blows up. The whole bike, lines, hoses, tires etc. are inspected as well because at 6 seconds at over 225 mph, there is NO ROOM for error!
With all this being said, I ran out of time and didn’t get to talk about heads, fuel or ignition systems that make’s this whole process come together. I will have to cover that in a later writing.
Race day is here—whether it’s AMRA, AHDRA or NHRA! The master minds behind this four-bike Jay Turner Racing team—Jay himself and Rex Harris—will go back through notes and get the bikes ready for the first pass with a tune they thinks is appropriate. They will look at things like weather, track conditions, temps, clouds or no clouds. They will have to determine the nitro/methanol mixture and clutch set-up—as this will determine how fast the 1000+ HP power is put to the rear tire.
After the first round is run, the computer map will be downloaded to see what the bike did and determine what changes to make for the next pass—and this is for all four bikes. While Rex is figuring all the equations out from the computer maps, mechanics are changing the clutches, oil, plugs, and packing parachutes. Jay is inspecting every inch of the motorcycle to get it ready for the next round.
I am sure this only scratches the surface as to what goes on. The thrill of beating the clock to make that next pass, the ADRENALINE RUSH of making that 6 second pass at over 225 mph! And for me, I will stick with taking my photos and stay out of the way as I know its hard for these guys to even grab a bite to eat during Saturday qualifying and Sunday eliminations.
Thanks to ALL the racers that put their lives on the line that give the spectators the show of a lifetime! The two wheeled NEED FOR SPEED!!
story and photos by Michael Davis of Moto Lenz Photos