Lawless Rocket at South Georgia Motorsports Park – Click above for high-res image gallery
The South Georgia Motorsports Park was alive with the sounds of motorcycles last weekend. Hundreds of them. Among that throng were dozens of Pro Street machines, eight Top Fuel bikes and the reason for our visit: one very serious electric dragster; the "Rocket" of Shawn Lawless.
Although the Killacycle still owns the official NEDRA record in the class, the Rocket has been quicker in the quarter mile. On this occasion though, the goal wasn't necessarily to run quicker, but faster. The plan was to break the land speed record. Usually an attempt of this sort takes place on a lengthy piece of barren real estate like the Bonneville Salt Flats but the Lawless team has calculated the bike has what it takes to hit their 180-mile per hour target over just 1,320 feet of super-sticky South Georgia asphalt.
What "it" does the Rocket have? Lots. Almost 2,000 individual A123 lithium batteries forming a 15.4 kWh pack that can kick out over 3000 amps at 363 volts. One-of-a-kind custom 4000 amp Zilla controller to send all that power to a single 13 inch DC modified motor and turn the massive amount of electricity into quickly-accelerating forward motion. The custom-built frame was a joint effort between Orange County Choppers and Rolling Thunder in Montreal. The whole thing was assembled at OCC's shop with the help of Jim Quinn, who was also on hand during this sunny weekend expertly working the wrenches as well as the curious crowds.
Was it enough? Hit the jump to find out and to see a video of their second run.
The team was hoping to get a pass in Friday night but just before they were to make their Deep South debut, oil befouled both lanes, ruining conditions for the rest of the night. Bummer. The next day saw their first opportunity to run arrive in the morning and their rider, veteran Top Fuel pilot Larry "Spiderman" McBride treated the crowd to an impressive 8.26 seconds at 153 mph. He was just warming up.
Their next break came at noon when the track officials gave the Lawless team the chance to do back-to-back solo shots. The Rocket rolled up to the waterbox and smoke started to billow up as the back tire was properly prepared while the announcer informed the crowd about the bike and the record attempt. After being guided into position and with the visor on the superhero helmet dropped into place, Spiderman looked down the track like a bullet peers at a target from inside the barrel of a gun. Suddenly, he shot off. McBride threw some weight to the left to counter some torque-induced roll. Heads snapped toward the direction of the finish line as the crowd seemed to collectively suck in their breath. The bike passed the time display at the far end of the track and numbers came up indicating he had made the pass in 7.75 seconds at 163 mph. Quicker than the Killacycle's best time but decidedly short of what they were aiming for.
The Rocket rolled back down the far lane toward the launch pad to do it again, and while we expected the next run would be better, it seemed unlikely to hit the magic 180 mph mark without some adjustments. The start ritual was repeated and again the Rocket ignited, peeling down the length of the strip. The warmed-up batteries boosted the result up to 7.70 at 168 mph. The crowd roared its approval.
When we made our way back to the team's pit not far from to the finish line, Shawn and Jim were already hard at work. The chain was off and the big back wheel loose. With a grin that was both impish and confident, Shawn explained they were putting on a bigger sprocket. The next run would be for real.
We took a few more photos and watched some Pro Street bikes run while we waited for the the next electric pass. The noisy machines certainly lacked a "green" factor, but having a motorcycle whiz by you at 190 mph on its back wheel certainly was exciting.
The wait got longer than our budgeted time and we had to leave. The downtime for the Lawless team proved to be epically protracted. In fact, in spite of the orderly unleashing of wave after wave of competitors, the sea of bikes didn't diminish and the opportunity for more track time never materialized. Neither that evening or the whole of the next day.
Despite the shortcomings of the weekend, Shawn's positive attitude and competitive spirit was on full display in a message left for his fellow electric racers on the NEDRA Yahoo message boards. Quote,
Disappointed that we didn't get another run with the Rocket bike but I just saw the best drag race of my life as a consolation.
Takeshi Shigematsu flew over from Japan for the race, and just blew by me on a nitro Harley setting a new v-twin World Record of 6.13@218 mph. Not only was he on one wheel the entire run but so was the Harley next to him who actually beat him to the line with a 6.16@224 mph. Unfreakin believable. We MUST run 6's next season.
Indeed. We'll look for the Lawless Rocket to achieve that unprecedented mark next year. We'll also keep an eye out for news of a line of unique electric motorcycles available for public sale from this long-time builder and holder of several NEDRA records.