Seeking Southlanders to follow Munro's trail

22:22, Nov 28 2013

The call is out for Southlanders daring enough to follow in the tread of famous Southland-born racer Burt Munro on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Christchurch sidecar world speed record-holder Phil Garrett and his Flying Kiwi team are holding a competition to find four riders to be part of an 80-strong "Kiwi invasion" to hit the famous salt flats for the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials in August next year.

"It would be fantastic if one of the riders is from Burt Munro's stomping ground in Southland," Garrett said.

Being able to ride a bike was the first requirement but was secondary to the spirit of the competition, he said.

"What's really important about the trip to the US is to live up to the reputation Burt has created along with the other Kiwi riders who have followed," he said.

They should be proud but humble, capable but understated, good communicators and always have time to speak to anyone who approaches them."


No stranger to reaching speeds of close to 300kmh at Bonneville, Garrett has had "salt fever" since he set a world land speed record of 272kmh in a 1000cc sidecar at Bonneville in 2005.

"I'll teach the chosen four how to ride on the salt," he said.

His recruits will ride a 200hp (150kW), 1979 Kawasaki Turbo that has raced on the salt for more than 20 years - the same bike Garrett rode at Bonneville in 2008. It could reach 300kmh, but there was no pressure to reach top speeds, he said.

About 400 teams would attend, trying to break the more than 530kmh record on salt, which offers only 40 per cent the traction of tarseal. The race lasts about two minutes, and there are no brakes.

Having a Southlander in the riding team would put a grin on old Burt's face, Garrett said.

"Burt Munro personified Bonneville. His struggles, his determination and his bloody-mindedness and commitment are what we want to honour."

Fifteen people had shown interest in riding, plus another 55 supporters. Entries close on December 15.

The Flying Kiwi Team were also designing and building the tyrannosaurus rex-shaped, 1984 Kawasaki Turbo on which Garrett aimed to reach 320kmh to earn an honorary "200 mile an hour club" red hat.

Motorcycle fans can see the T-Rex and the 1979 Kawasaki Turbo on display at different times during the Burt Munro Challenge at E Hayes and Son.

The Southland Times