Thursday, April 23, 2009

Buddy Robinson / On the Mend

About 8 weeks ago my brother (Buddy Robinson) was involved in a serious plane crash. By all accounts he and his flying partner, Mark Nicolayev shouldn't have survived. Their plane fell from the sky after striking a power cable somewhere over the Salinas River. The engine was torn free, the right wing snapped and folded over, and the landing gear ripped from beneath the fuselage. They landed in the river and if the impact didn't kill them, there was a good chance they would drown. (photo: Salinas Californian)

Somehow they managed to pull themselves from the wreckage. My dad (Joe Robinson) also flies and has also had his share of close calls in the not-so-friendly skies. Like my dad, Buddy is a survivor and has too much to live for to let something like this bring things to a premature end. His list of injuries included six broken ribs, a chipped elbow, a shattered orbital socket (eye socket), a fractured leg and bleeding on the brain. There were other injuries, but these were the first to come to mind. His stay in the hospital would leave a lasting impression on many. Brain injuries are a son of a bitch, and not for the faint of heart. The reason I'm writing this is so many of you have asked how he is doing, and maybe this will in some way offer an explanation.
Flying is a big part of Buddy's life and he's already looking forward to returning to the cockpit of his favorite airplane, his rotary engined Nanchang, a warbird fighter trainer. While he wasn't piloting the plane that went down, he has had to ditch his own plane while doing a loop and having an engine seizure while inverted practicing aerobatics over the coast. Luckily he found an open field to put her down in dead stick, and is still around to tell the tale.

He's a familiar fixture at the Bonneville Salt Flats and many know him and his airplane firsthand. He's jockeyed camera crews around giving them new perspectives and great shots from vantage points previously unavailable. He's raced me down the salt, diving his plane to gain speed, zooming by overhead when my run's come to an end. On one occassion, a major sports car manufacturer was there and saw his plane and asked if he'd like to be included in their ad. He's given more than one motojournalist the ride of their life, giving them more to write about than just fast cars or motorcycles.

The one thing about my brother that never ceases to amaze me is how he never lets anything get in his way. In our younger years we both raced pro flat track. One year at the Houston Astrodome Buddy had to beat out the champ, Jay Springsteen to make it into the main event. At the time Jay was Harley Davidson's million dollar man, riding his factory prepared 750cc racing machine. My brother was on his 500cc Yamaha that was only a slight improvement over the stock machine you could buy from your local dealer. From the moment the green flag dropped, Buddy put the hammer down, eventually putting Harley's golden boy down as well! Buddy was in the main event and Team Harley and Jay Springsteen were sent packing, wondering what hit them...

Getting back to present day, a couple of weeks back I met with my brother and our good friend Scott Jensen for a friendly round of golf at their local country club. Keep in mind this is only 6 weeks after his accident. I realized how much he means to so many by the first tee. We couldn't tee off until all his friends stopped by to wish him well and gave him hugs and had their pictures taken next to him. They couldn't believe he was already out of the hospital, let alone standing there on the golf course actually preparing to play.

One couple filmed him as he stepped up to the tee, reared back and let her rip. A beautiful hook shot left of the fairway OB. (nobody said it was going to be easy) It must have tugged at our heartstrings because I hooked mine left OB and so did Scott. His friends thought we were truly great sports for purposely hitting such bad shots just to make my brother feel better. Yeah, that's it, we lied. Once we got past the first tee jitters, a game insued I'll never forget. My brother, who for the most part can't see out of his right eye, is playing with 6 broken ribs, a chipped elbow, a fractured leg, etc., etc., proceeded to put a hurt on us like you wouldn't believe. He played the entire 18 holes and never let up.

When we got back to the clubhouse, more friends surrounded him amazed he would even attempt to play. We tallied the scorecard and sure enough, the Bud Man had won. Funny thing was, his friends kept telling us what great guys we were for letting him win. If only it were true!

Buddy still has a long road ahead. Many of his injuries are still on the mend and he's still having lots of issues with his right eye. He does his best to remain positive and has the support of his loving wife, Christie and a family that's behind him 100%. He continues to push himself and still refuses to let anything get in his way. All in all I'd say his biggest setback his lack of compassion for his fellow golfers!

Hang in there bro,

We all love you.


(Buddy tipping his wing over Bonneville in the wee morning hours.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's Official!

Having your record ratified is like eating your birthday cake and then receiving the frosting in the mail 5 months later. You know you've done the deal, but until it's OFFICIAL, it doesn't really count.

That all changed recently when the FIM Congress officially ratified our record. To make things sweeter, it will now be submitted to the Guinness Book of Records, and maybe if there's room between the world's ugliest bug and the girl with 2700 tattoos, our record will grace the pages of the most read book of achievements.

Normally this might not be that big a deal, but for us, in 2006 when we broke the then current record of 322 mph, a record which stood for 16 years, the company that makes the frosting skipped town and filed bankrupcy. We officially got our record, the FIM ratified it, but because the record was broken more than once that year, someone thought it wasn't important to add ours in the book since it was no longer the most recent record. Wah.

I know it's not that big a deal. But friends would ask me, you gonna be in the Guinness book? At the time we all thought we would. When the book came out and we weren't in it, well, we had to substitute crow for frosting and someone already drank all the milk.

The silver lining is the team fought back and once again we found our way back on top. At the end of the year (2008) we had no peers. I'm looking forward to putting the book on my office shelf (right next to my first copy of FLAT OUT, of course). Too bad it won't be out till the end of this year. By the time the record was ratified, the book had already gone to print. Just knowing that we did it and that others will be able to pick up the book (after stumbling through countless pages of the world's heaviest potato chip, or the world's largest pumpkin) they might even find us, a bunch of guys who chased a dream and finally won.

Dave Campos likened owning the world land speed record to this: You're standing on a block of ice with a noose around your neck and your hands tied behind your back. I realized after receiving Dave's baton what he was talking about. What Dave failed to mention in his analogy is that if you get close enough you'll notice that everyone who's been lucky enough to stand on the slippery cube, has cake on their breath...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sacramento Autorama features the World's Fastest Motorcycle

February 6-8 the 59th Annual Sacramento Autorama comes to town at Cal Expo. In addition to the cool customs, vintage automobiles and low-riders typical of this type of event, the motorcycling segment continues to grow. For the first time, the World's Fastest Motorcycle, the Top 1 Ack Attack will be featured and is sure to draw a crowd. This may be the only local appearance for this machine in 2009 as it will be crated and shipped to Indonesia following the meet to begin a world tour presented by our sponsor, Top 1 Oil.

Stop by and pick up an autographed poster, or maybe the official World Record T-Shirt while supplies last. Rocky's book, FLAT OUT, will also available. Meet crew members and talk to Rocky while checking out the most successful land speed motorcycle in recent times.

The Ack Attack is powered by twin Suzuki Hayabusa engines, turbo-charged and inter-cooled. Suzuki and Top 1 have supported our racing efforts and will continue their support in 2009. Hope to see you at the Autorama!

Rocky Robinson and the Top 1 Ack Attack Racing Team

Sunday, January 18, 2009

400 MPH on Two Wheels

In land speed racing there are class records for various engine displacements; faired, unfaired; streamliners, etc. For me the only one that mattered was the ultimate, unlimited record. Fastest motorcycle...ever. I learned a lot talking to people at various trade shows after we clinched the title. (360.913 mph / Sept. 26, 2008) The Ack Attack draws a lot of attention, and rightfully so. It is currently the world's fastest motorcycle. But listening to the comments made by enthusiasts and fellow racers, it's more than that to some.

"I'm so glad a real motorcycle has the record again", was mentioned more times than I care to remember. The meaning behind this is simple. In their opinion the Bub machine (former record holder) doesn't have a motorcycle engine. There are several rules defining a "motorcycle" in land speed racing, or any other form of motorcycle racing for that matter. But defining a motorcycle in the eyes of the general public is this: it must have only two wheels and it must use a motorcycle engine.

The argument they (Team Bub) choose to make is that the "engine" was never used in anything else other than their motorcycle streamliner, therefore it is a motorcycle engine. The fact that they could build a one-off, 3000cc V4, turbo-charged unit designed and built specifically for land speed racing is a huge accomplishment. The motor works great. I know because I have more seat time running this motor than anyone else. People marvel at the technology. Is it a true motorcycle engine? You decide.

The fun thing about chasing the ultimate two-wheel record is innovation and the different approaches used by the different teams. The Ack Attack approach is horsepower, horsepower, horsepower. The machine is oversized, excessively heavy, and the least aerodynamic of the top three contendors. It is also probably the safest. With rider and fluids in place, the machine weighs over 2000 pounds. The steel roll cage is purposely over-engineered for safety. (and it has been tested and passed with flying colors) To compensate for the additonal weight and larger profile the Ack Attack produces nearly twice the horsepower of it's nearest rival.

Sam Wheeler's EZ Hook streamliner is probably one of the favorites for a number of reasons. For one, Sam is a very likable guy. In 2006 even though the Ack Attack and Bub teams both broke the current world record, it was Sam who left with the fastest single run of the day. Sam was the fastest man on two wheels on numerous occassions, though he has yet to put two successful runs together to achieve the holy grail of land speed racing, the ultimate two-wheel record. His machine is by far the lightest, most aerodynamic machine of the big three contendors. It also produces the least amount of horsepower, though by design it requires much less to get the job done.
There are new streamliners being built and the quest to be the "fastest" will continue. The next milestone for motorcycles is the 400 MPH mark. I can't say whether any one of us will be the first to reach it, but it will happen sometime in the not too distant future. The Ack Attack is officially "retired" at this point and I'm not sure if it will ever compete again. As Mike Akatiff likes to say, "never say never". So who knows. I know our competition is working feverishly for a few extra horsepower and a chance to steal the crown. There will always be someone faster.
There's no question about that.