A 22-year-old Suzuki GSX-R1100 with a homemade turbo defeated dozens of modern GSX-R1000s, turbo Hayabusas and a BMW S1000RR in last weekend’s world wheelie championships at Elvington, Yorkshire.
Egbert Van Popta, a German now living in Holland, took regular competitors by surprise by approaching the start of the flying kilometer in fifth gear on the elderly GSX-R – bored out to 1127cc –before using the bike’s immense torque to lift the front wheel and just accelerating on one wheel for a kilometer. His average speed was 169.4mph – extraordinary considering the blustery conditions.
Competitors riding newer, less torquey machines were forced to approach the line in third gear, then change up twice as they accelerated through the kilometer.
Event organiser and former wheelie champion Dave ‘Dodge’ Rogers said: "He rolls up to the start line in top gear at around 4-5,000rpm then just uses the torque to cover the km on the back wheel!! This means he doesn’t have to change gear on the back wheel, making it much safer."
Another shock was Holeshot Racing's 231bhp, turbo-charged R6, which saw track action for the first time. The bike was competing in the top-speed run section of the event, and hit 180mph despite a pronounced misfire. A stock R6 will hit an indicated 165mph.
Team owner Jack Frost told MCN: "I wanted to turbo charge the R6 because nobody else has. I want to beat some of the bigger bikes here today, because for not a lot of money – five grand on top of the price of the bike - you've got a better power-to-weight ratio than a MotoGP bike. It's more powerful than a full-on superbike. It's a great little toy. Some people start putting long bodywork and other alterations to get the most speed out of a machine, but this looks just like the standard bike. That's the appeal.
"It's the same size turbo as we'd put on a 1000cc machine, because that bike revs up to 16,000rpm. It's the equivalent to a 300bhp turbo on a car.
"After so many years on turbo-charged big bikes, getting on a stock R6 just feels... gutless. It's like riding a 250, you've got to rev it hard to get the best out of it. They've no torque at all. That's what made it a challenge, they're a hard and compact bike to work on too. If we could make it fit in that small frame, we felt that we could make it fit on anything. It's definitely helped us with our ongoing S1000RR project.
"A bike engine is a short-stroke, big-piston, quick-revving engine. Particularly something like an R6. You size a turbo to suit the bike. There's no lag. No lag at all. You've got a lot of compression, so it's a little bit slower to pick up than standard, but that's not lag from the turbo. There hasn't been lag on a turbo for 25 years - with modern electronics and fuelling management the problem is completely resolved. Even on carburettored bikes it's hardly noticeable."
One of the favourites to break records aboard his Busa, Swede Patrik Furstenhoff – star of the infamous Ghostrider videos – had a nightmare event. His year 2000 turbo-charged Hayabusa broke down on his first run and he told MCN: "It's the first time it has broken down in 11 years!" The bike's problems were later traced to a bent valve which put an end to his activities all weekend.