motorcycle memo's w/Tom McCarthy

Who can it be now: First in the Fives for Top Fuel Harley?

Through my crystal ball, am I seeing the first 5-second V-Twin T/F motorcycle? (Tom McCarthy photo)


As the motorcycle drag season of 2018 unfolds, the race within the race season will be: Who will be the first Top Fuel Harley pilot in motorcycle drag racing history to cross into the five-second elapsed time zone. Or to encapsulate, who will be first in the fives?


Larry “Spiderman” McBride brought Top Fuel motorcycles into the five-second zone in October of 1999. The inline-four or “I-4” Top Fuel bikes have always had an inherent advantage over the two-cylinder machines and always will, thus they cracked the five-second mark almost two decades ago. But technology and refinement of the breed of two-cylinder bikes has evolved greatly, so the time has come for the legendary Harley hybrids to advance into the fives.  But who will be the first?


Most of the likely suspects that can do the deed are already deeply involved in supercharged, fuel injected, nitro Harley racing as opposed to the naturally aspirated bikes which have ruled the roost since the 1960’s, when Top Fuel Harleys began as a formal competition class.


Here are the top contenders that are most likely to join the Spiderman as “First in the 5’s.”


1) Takeshi Shigematsu of Matsuyama, Ehime, Japan: On November 17, 2017, during the Man Cup Mann Hill Garage, World Finals, Tak (also known as “Crazy Tak”) posted a time of 6.021 seconds at 194.91 MPH during Q-1 of the World Finals. What’s not readily apparent by the elapsed time is that Tak had to abort the run by 1,000 feet as his handlebars broke. If one were to look at Tak’s 1.04 short time, followed by his 2.62 at the 330’ and his amazing 3.88 at the 1/8th mile coupled with a 196.04 MPH at half track, one can see Tak was on a run that would have been a 5.85-ish number had he been able to stay in the throttle. His 4.951 at the 1,000’ mark was a clear indication, had he still had a throttle in his hand to hold on to, he would have cracked the five’s then and there. But fate intervened and suddenly just before the 1,000-foot mark, Tak had separate handlebars, one in each hand, after leaving the starting line with a one piece drag bar set-up. Tak had to fight for his life to keep the bike upright after brushing the wall, and that was all for that run. But the bottom line is this, when the NHRA holds qualifying in February for the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals, Tak will be there and the tune-up will be too. If the conditions are right, Tak is the most likely candidate to run the number first.


2) Jaska Salakari of Vantaa, Finland: Jaska normally races in “Super Twin” in Europe, but he has brought his Super Twin to the USA to race with the Man Cup sanction. In 2017, Jaska recorded a 6.01 elapsed time at 213 MPH, showing he has the power to run the number. But his magnificent creation and EU T/F motorcycle license does not meet NHRA rules for competition, so the earliest Jaska can run is the Man Cup season opener on April 6-8, 2018. In the meantime, the NHRA Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley season will have had races in Pomona, Phoenix, and Gainesville. Will one of the NHRA Top Fuel motorcycles land the big fish first? We will find out.


3) Jay “Bulldog” Turner of Liberty, North Carolina: Jay Turner has been quietly building a ProCharger-equipped T/F Harley in his shop for some time now. It sports a modified Sam Wills T/F Harley chassis and should be ready for testing some time before the NHRA season begins. If the pre-season testing goes well, don’t be surprised if Jay rolls it out at the Winternationals. While Jay does not have the data that Tak and Jason Pridemore have amassed, Jay knows Nitro Harleys as well or better than anyone out there racing them today. His NHRA T/F Harley championships attest to that and he’s a fearless pilot. Never count out the Bulldog in a drag race. Never.


4) Jason Pridemore of Garrettsville, Ohio: The soft-spoken Top Fuel Harley racer from Ohio has a beautiful Sprintex supercharged T/F Harley that has produced a 4.0 eighth-mile time slip at a high 190 MPH number that has shown Jason has the first half of the track figured out. His figuring out the back-half has been underway for a while now and it’s only a matter of time before Jason suddenly lights up the clocks again with a stunning number. The quest for the first-five has Jason working hard as ever and he can do the deed. But “when” becomes the defining question.


5) Shadow Warriors: From within the shadows, rumor has it Ronnie Houniet of Canada has a new V-60 bike with a ProCharger unit on it and if Ron Houniet is driving, he’s a very capable T/F pilot. Rumors also are swirling about that a former IHRA T/F Harley champion may come back in 2018. He once ruled the roost and if indeed he returns, he’s championship contention material right away. If he emerges from the shadows with a blower-bike, that’s trouble.

For Sale: the Dave Vantine Top Fuel motorcycle, take delivery November 18, 2018. (Tom McCarthy photo)


In other important Top Fuel motorcycle related news, the five-second Top Fuel motorcycle of Dave Vantine is officially for sale and can be picked up at the end of the 2018 season. The reason for this is by next December, Dave and his team will be taking delivery of a new T/F bike from Cycle Specialist, in Newport News, VA, aka Larry McBride!


This is very big news in the world of Top Fuel motorcycle drag racing because this bike is by its very nature, the next generation of Larry’s current 5.61 ET bike. The brothers McBride are eager to share their breadth of experience with the motorcycle drag racing community at large. If Cycle Specialist continues to crank out T/F bikes every 2-3 years, we will one day see a full field of five-second Top Fuel motorcycles and that, my friends, would be a sight to behold!  



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