April 7, 2009

Dale Walksler Sets ECTA Vintage Motorcycle Records

This past weekend, the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC, traveled to Maxton, NC for the East Coast Timing Association (ECTA) Land Speed Races to compete in the first east coast speed trials event of the 2009 season.

The team, consisting of members from North Carolina, Michigan, and Indiana had unbelievable success over the weekend, coming away with 5 new ECTA-certified land speed records.


Geared To Go! This purpose-built 1930 Harley DLD racer before its first run.

During this first run of the year, hundreds of racers and spectators gathered for the two-day event, and were met with blue skies and perfect temperatures for land speed racing.

Competitors from near and far brought their best cars, trucks and motorcycles, fielding new and old machines alike, in order to take a chance at making history.

Each machine fielded by the Wheels Through Time race team exceeded 60 years of age. And all of them would compete in various vintage classes for their respective records.  In total, the team fielded five vintage machines for the speed trials, including the oldest machine to ever run at an ECTA event — a 1930 Harley-Davidson 750cc Model D (sorry Buzz, we know you previously held that with your 1931 V).  Prepared and ridden by museum curator and founder, Dale Walksler, the little Harley-Davidson needed to clock at least 85 miles per hour in order to break the record in the Altered Vintage Production Gas class.

“We came here with high hopes,” said Walksler before his first record attempt.  “The machine was purpose built to run at Maxton, and we’ve done all we can to make sure the 750 [c.c.] Harley is competitive.

Walksler’s first run on the machine came after a two hour starting delay due to ECTA support issues.  Shortly after noon on Saturday, Walksler rolled up to the starting line and was flagged off.  “The machine ran well,” said a disappointed Walksler. “But it fell short of the class record by more than 5 miles per hour.  We’re going to make some changes, and give it another shot.”

With sights set at riding into the record books, the team mechanics changed the machine’s gearing, hoping to add a few more miles per hour to its top speed.  Walksler’s second run produced a lower recorded speed, as a technical problems caused the machine to jump out of gear just before the trap that records competitors speed.  Still confident that their vintage Harley flathead racer could perform better, the team worked on correcting the problem and would test their fate on a final record attempt the next day.


Posing with ECTA Director Keith Turk after breaking the 750cc Vintage Record (L to R) John Dills, Dale, Keith Turk, Myron Pace and Matt Walksler

As Sunday morning brought more blue skies and cool air, the team gathered in the pits making last minute adjustments, and set out for the starting line.  With their hopes riding on only one run, the team new that the bike would have to perform at its best, and pick up quite a bit of time in order to come away with what they were after.  As the starter waived his flag, the machine took off and roar down the 1.9-mile runway with nothing to lose.  As it crossed the speed trap, spectators and competitors alike saw the results — a new class record was set at 90.307 mph, over 5 miles per hour faster than the previous record.

“The machine performed flawlessly,” said Walksler.  “The changes we made were the right ones, and they paid off.  This is exactly what we came here to do, and we couldn’t be happier with the results.”

The weekend of racing rewarded the WTT Race Team a number of  land speed records in various classes.  John Swanson, of Brethren, MI set the Modified Vintage Production 1000 cc Gas class record on a 1948 Harley-Davidson WR with a speed of 78.783 mph.  Mark Hutchinson, from Ft. Wayne, Indiana, racing a “modern” 1941 Harley-Davidson ULH, set two records in the Modified Vintage Production 1350cc Gas class and later entered the Production/Vintage Production 1350cc class and recorded a top speed and new record of 95.176 mph.

The ECTA, formed by two Bonneville Land Speed Record holders, was designed to provide an opportunity for east coast racers to compete in speed trials without having to make the several thousand mile trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the world’s mecca for land speed racing.  Setting up their venue at an abandoned military air-strip in Maxton, NC, the ECTA’s events attract the fastest competition on the east coast and has certified land speed records in excess of 260mph. Visit www.ecta-lsr.com for more info.

For more information on the Wheels Through Time Museum or the ECTA Maxton Land Speed Races, visit the museum’s video website, located at www.WheelsThroughTime.com or call the museum at (828) 926-6266.

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