Jaylin Billig: 2012 175cc P-AG AMA Land Speed record holder
March 12, 2013
"My name is Jaylin Billig. I live in Houston, and I'm a Bonneville land speed racer. I set a new AMA record in the 175cc P-AG class, on my 150cc scooter. Yes, the little scooters you often see around town. Only, mine is a little bit different.
Land speed racers are a different bunch from most other disciplines. We come from near and far, U.S. and Europe, old and very young. We prepare all year for one single week of racing. Some of us don't even get to test our bikes until we set them on the salt. It's been called the most difficult track in the world, and I can attest to that from experience. So, how did I come to set my tires along the Great Black Line?
Ah, there's a question and the answer is in my bike. For whatever reason, my particular bike was built faster than many others. It sometimes happens, two bikes from the same factory, but one is just a little bit better. After I raced across the Pontchartrain Bridge against two race-prepared Vespas with bigger engines and held them down, I knew I needed to find somewhere to really test my machine. How fast could it really go?
I researched land speed racing and entered my bike in the unlimited category, Run-Whatcha-Brung. I raised the funds from friends, family and savings and worked with a local shop to get as much extra power out of the engine as we could. Then I packed myself, my bike and my dogs into my truck and journeyed off to Utah. Crazy? Yes, it was.
If you have never been, you must go. The track lies in the middle of a vast salt lake. You can't even see the pits from the road. It's a strange feeling when you first set foot on the legendary salt. The conditions are extremely harsh out there, but the warmth and genuine enthusiasm of the people who come out there is absolutely amazing. I can't speak highly enough of everyone who welcomed the crazy scooter girl and made me feel a part of this great group. The people come in old vans and brand-new semis, huge sponsored teams and one-person entries, and everyone helps each other. It is a big family reunion and the camaraderie is unequaled.
In the end, a conversation (and a bet) at a bar changed everything. I started out in a non-AMA class, but in speaking with several racers we came up with a plan; register for an AMA class and rebuild the bike to race in it. We had two days. No one in their memory had ever changed classes on the salt. But I was going to give everything I had to do it.
Calls were made. Parts were overnighted to Salt Lake 180 miles to the west. We worked from before dawn until after sunset fabricating, building and modifying. I could never have done it alone -- word spread about my attempt and I received advice from the other teams on how to adapt to the new class. When we installed the new muffler, one guy held the bike while I kicked the hot pipe into place to line up with the exhaust. Every waking moment was spent arms deep in the frame, except for the wedding I attended at sunset on the track; wiping my hands best I could of grease. On the morning of the last day of racing we were finally ready. I passed final tech inspection and headed out to the line., but there was a problem. Too much fuel was drowning the carburetor. Even with the smallest jet it was still sputtering with a tremendous loss of power. I had no more time, I had to make my run.
I made it down the first pass, but just barely. I had to return to Impound and wait for my second pass. I got my first speed ticket, and a bike that was making 73 mph two days ago was down to 41 mph. But if I could complete that second pass I could still set the record. The opposite pass was 2 mph more, and the third even better. My final pass, the last one for the day and the year, was my best even with the engine backfiring and all attempts to feather the throttle gaining only a little improvement. I have to thank Famous James Moore, who made the bet that started my AMA run. Dave Pedroli who is a gentleman and a wizard on the lathe. All the guys at Sodium Distortion Racing for their advice and awesome hospitality. Gina and Mordo Olsen for their help as well with getting a speed dampener on a scooter. Rob Williams and Julianna Wallingford for their advice and spare drill bits. My record is not just my own, but belongs to all of the racers out there and the unique bond formed in the middle of nowhere.
Am I going back this year? Absolutely! I have been dreaming of it since last August. But then, speed racers dream of the salt all year long. Salt Fever is incurable."
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