DLRA Speed Week 2021

On the 16th March our race team landed back in Sydney after traveling to Lake Gairdner for DLRA Speed Week 2021.  It was a challenging journey this year with more aspects to coordinate, the uncertainty of travel and of course COVID-19. Then to whack a cherry on top there’s always the weather, which only just passed the bar needed for racing on the lake.

Event organisers were monitoring the lake conditions closely as DLRA Speed Week 2021 drew near.  The La Niña this summer meant the lake surface was saturated from high rainfall.  Days before we were due to race water was still sitting on the surface of the lake.  The racetrack in the middle of the lake was dry.  However, we wouldn’t be able to access the lake if the water by the shore didn’t drain or evaporate quickly.  In which case, Speed Week would be cancelled again.  

Fortunately, as the event approached wind gusts picked up. This helped dry out the lake just enough to allow access.  Having missed out on racing in 2019 and 2020, we were very keen to make the journey if there was even half a chance of running.  So, we loaded up and set off to the Lake.

Sunset over salt before Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia
Elliott Motorcycles land speed racing pit area during Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia
Getting Set for DLRA Speed Week 2021

We arrived at Lake Gairdner on Saturday 6th March. This gave us plenty of time to prep for racing on the Monday.  We setup camp and the boys cooked up a great meal which was followed by a few beers. Early the next morning, we setup our pits, got the bike scrutineered and prepared for racing.  We checked over the bike and made sure it was running perfectly. I was really happy with how everyone was working as a team and felt quietly confident.  However, it was clear from the moment we touched the lake surface that the salt was saturated. So I knew the track would be very different to what I had experienced in previous years.

Day 1

All of the teams were eager to race, so there was a solid queue of people accessing the lake that morning.  We arrived at our pit bay and immediately went to work getting the bike ready.

It wasn’t long before we saw the first bike on track and it was Magoo riding Ben Felten’s Kawasaki ZX10RR.  He dropped by after his pass and gave us an early heads up about the track conditions.  The high moisture content in the salt meant that the track surface was pretty slippery, and the gusty conditions had also stuck around meaning there was a strong side wind as you reached the timed section of the racetrack. 

Wind gusts kept up as the morning went on so we watched and waited to see if the conditions would improve.

Elliott Motorcycles racing team during Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia
Elliott Andrews on the Elliott Motorcycles LSR1 MKII land speed race bike with team during Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia
I was weary that while the large fairing on my bike was designed to make my bike faster, it could also act as sail with a side wind.

Some riders were getting some decent passes in. If you were lucky, you could be at the start line when the wind gusts dropped temporarily. Others had to abort their runs early as the wind blew them sideways. So I decided to get a shakedown pass in and chance my luck regardless of the conditions.

I had missed the adrenalin you get as you reach the start line at Speed Week. Finally, I would get to ride the bike I have spent years working on. The marshal gave me the signal to go, I started the bike and took off.

The bike felt good as I accelerated through the gears. Then all of a sudden, I started getting pushed to the left. I did what I could to counteract the wind, but it was too strong. Before I knew it a gust had blown me over 20 metres sideways. I was off the graded portion of the track and in the rough natural lake surface. I rolled off the throttle and got control of the bike. Then I signalled to the medics that I was ok.

Day 2

Elliott Andrews on the Motorcycles LSR1 MKII land speed race bike during Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia

The next day we repeated our preparations and kept a close eye on conditions. After my first pass I got thinking. Do I chance it and risk damaging the bike in the gusty conditions? Or, do I sit and wait it out? The forecast was meant to improve later in the week. But I was itching to race. So I decided to take the risk and lined up, hoping the conditions would improve. Unfortunately, I ended up getting pushed off the track once again. This time I nearly hit a mile marker on the edge of the track as the wind took me.

Day 3

It was frustrating having to abort my first two passes at DLRA Speed Week 2021. So I was determined to try and get two passes in on the Wednesday.  We got up early and headed for the lake.  However, as the sun rose, we could tell the weather wasn’t looking good. It was a bit black over Bills Mothers.  Still, the team prepped the bike and we headed to the start line as fast as we could to try and miss what was coming for us.

I took off from the start line and this time I could straight away feel that I was getting buffeted by a cross wind. But I managed to stay on track and build speed until the 2nd mile marker.  Then bam!  The cross wind got stronger and took me of the track again. I was just a passenger. 

The thunderstorm

The wind was building, and the sky was filling up with dark clouds. Shortly after returning to the pits it started to rain.  We found ourselves in the middle of the lake in the middle of a storm.  The rain was so heavy that within an hour the entire lake had filled up with 2 inches of water.  There was nothing we could do and nowhere to go so we just had to sit it out. 

The storm had passed, the sun had come out and the wind had dropped to nothing by mid-afternoon.  The water on the lake looked like glass, creating perfect reflections of the sky.  It was a surreal place to find yourself and my team made the most of the conditions and downtime by posing and capturing some awesome pictures.  There was no way that the lake could possibly dry out that day. It was anyone’s guess how long it would take.

Elliott Andrews on the Elliott Motorcycles LSR1 MKII land speed race bike during Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia

Day 4 & 5

Salt lake sunset during Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia

The lake was closed on Thursday with plenty of water still covering large portions of the track and pit area.  We watched and waited once again as the sun gradually dried everything out.  The race officials still held hope that it might be possible to get DLRA Speed Week 2021 back underway. So, we hung in there overnight. The sunsets and sunrises following the storm were particularly beautiful. 

The standing water had drained away from the race track and pit area by the Friday morning.  Initially, there was hope that we might get one more shot, but that hope quickly evaporated.  The race officials had to concede that was still too damp to race safely. So yet again, we would end the year empty handed.

My team and I have been working on so hard this campaign. It has become quite the ordeal. Despite everything that has got in our way over the past few years, we won’t give up. We will continue until I finally see 200 MPH on the dash.

And then onto the next record…

Elliott Motorcycles land speed racing team discussing the conditions in the pit area during Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia
Elliott Motorcycles land speed racing team preparing to race during Speed Week 2021 at Lake Gairdner in South Australia

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