Racer hopes to break land speed record

By Iain Hyndman -
The Brian Smith-built 1958 Triumph rocket Wanganui racer Mick Paul hopes will beat Burt Munro's record next year. Photo / Supplied
The Brian Smith-built 1958 Triumph rocket Wanganui racer Mick Paul hopes will beat Burt Munro's record next year. Photo / Supplied

Wanganui racer Mick Paul is aiming to realise the dream of a late Christchurch aircraft engineer to break Burt Munro's land speed record for under-1000cc pre-1960 motorbikes when he travels to the Salt Flats at Bonneville, Utah, late next year.

Paul, who has mainly raced road and speedway sidecars and super stocks for the past 25 years, met Brian (Donald) Smith purely by chance several months ago after discovering the mainlander had been beavering away in his Canterbury workshop building two 1958 Triumphs to achieve his dream.

"I met him through a relative of one of my staff members and discovered he was attempting Munro's record himself, but was then diagnosed with cancer. We emailed each other regularly over the past three months and he told me doctors had given him till Christmas, but unfortunately he passed away last Thursday," Paul said.

"Before he died we had talked about me riding the machines in the United States and he was going to bring the bikes up to Wanganui. He was really keen to have a go at Burt Munro's record that has stood since August 26, 1967."

Paul travels to Christchurch today to attend Smith's funeral service and return home with the two bikes and prepare to hopefully honour the man's dream.

"Brian was a meticulous engineer who really knew his stuff. He chose to work with Triumphs because many of the parts are still able to be bought. The bikes started off as 750cc, but are bored out to just over 900cc," Paul said.

Munro was 68 when he finally broke the record on his then 47-year-old 950cc Indian, while Paul will be knocking 44 when he attempts to better the speed in August next year on a 54-year-old Triumph.

"It's the same meeting Burt Munro set the record. We will have one of Brian's bikes attempting the record and the other to race for fun in another class," Paul said.

Until this opportunity came along Paul was on a self-imposed sabbatical from racing after suffering numerous knocks to the head over years on the track.

"It had been giving me a few problems so I decided to take a break, but this is far too good an opportunity to miss."

In 1967, Munro set a class record of 295.453 km/h (183.586 mph). To qualify he made a one-way run of 305.89 km/h (190.07 mph), the fastest-ever officially-recorded speed on an Indian. The unofficial speed record (officially timed) is 331 km/h (205.67 mph) for a flying mile.

Paul is aiming to reach 210mph (337.96 km/h) on Smith's Triumph.

"There's been a few knockers who don't want to see Burt Munro's record broken, but there's been many try in the last 45 years. If it's going to be broken we want it to be another Kiwi and that's what Tim Shadbolt reckons too - he's a great supporter of our attempt," Paul said.

Shadbolt, of course, is Mayor of Munro's hometown, Invercargill.

Both Smith-built bikes will be on display during the Boxing Day meeting on the Cemetery Circuit.

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