LIMESTONE, Maine — The Loring Timing Association put on their annual land speed racing event this past weekend at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone. The LTA-sanctioned land speed race is a speed trial event that takes place on the 2 5/8 mile long LTA racetrack, which is currently the longest asphalt LSR surface available in the world.
In the wake of last year’s tragic accident that claimed the life of racer William “Bill” Warner, the LTA dedicated this year’s event to Warner, as they dubbed the LTA racetrack Bill Warner Blvd., and placed the customized street sign right at the starting line for spectators and racers alike to pay tribute.
At the time of his death, Warner was the world record holder for fastest speed on a conventional motorcycle. He died on July 14, 2013 from injuries suffered when he lost control of his motorcycle while attempting to reach 300 mph within one mile during a speed trial at the Loring track.
The accident that took Warner’s life was determined to be the result of a problem with the rear tire. According to event coordinator and the association’s motorcycle technical director Joe Daly, the problem was some sort of drive line failure.
“We weren’t able to figure out the exact reason for the brake line failure, but the rear rim failed and the rear tire failed,” said Daly.
Experts were unable to determine exactly what the sequence of events that led to the failure was, but after Warner’s accident, the group took a close look at their inspection procedures as compared with other associations, and according to Daly, they found they were in compliance. However, going forward into this year’s event, the LTA claimed they would be looking at different procedures which will require vehicles traveling above 200 mph to have an inspection, including both tires, each time the competitor runs.
Going into the races this year, the LTA team was confident they have continued to take all the necessary precautions and have followed all the required protocol for keeping the event safe for all those involved.
“The safety programs are constantly refined and all land speed venues use information from each other to create as safe an environment as possible,” said Daly. “Land speed racing is a fairly safe motorsport comparing all others. Driving vehicles fast has to, by its nature, present some element of risk. Racers race for the challenge. This year we had 500 runs and no broken race cars or bikes. We had perfect weather conditions, as well. The conditions even allowed for one racer, Carl Theriot to become a new member of the 200 mph club.”
When asked what draws so many racers from all across the country to a small town in northern Aroostook County, Daly’s response praised the not only the condition of the nearly 3 mile track, but also the environment in which the racers have come to expect at the Loring-based track.
“Loring is blessed with 2-1/2 miles of race course, permitting not only a standing start mile speed opportunity, but also a unique standing start mile and a half speed,” said Daly. “We had racers this year who came from as far away as Oregon, as well as others from Michigan, Illinois, Georgia and all over Maine. They attend for the opportunity to achieve a land speed record and enjoy the fellowship of land speed racing. The are no cash prizes or trophies. The friendly environment and local accommodations make the racers comfortable.”
He also praised the condition of the race track at Loring and explained that it is difficult to find such a long stretch of asphalt in such pristine conditions.
“Loring’s runway is in extraordinary condition. The track is 12,100 feet by 300 feet with an additional 1,000 foot high abrasion asphalt apron on each end,” said Daly. “The racing surface is as smooth as the Bonneville Salt Flats, which is the parent venue for all land speed racing.”
Many people may wonder why it is these racers put themselves in danger, especially after last year’s tragedy. Daly pointed out that the land speed racers compete for a number of different reasons. As the sport may appear to be dangerous on the surface, the number of accidents that occur is quite lower than most people might expect.
“People race for a number of different reasons,” said Daly. “Some race for personal satisfaction, while others may simply want to see their name in the record books.”
Whatever the reasons these racers have for competing there is no doubt what they do takes a serious amount of intestinal fortitude and bravery, as well as a thrill-seeking mentality.