After hitting 191 mph on salt, the ‘Spirit of Munro’ revs up for a new record

In August 1967, a determined New Zealander named Burt Munro set a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats on a 1920 Indian Scout he modified himself and worked on for years. At the Spirit of Munro 50th anniversary commemoration this past Saturday, August 12, 2017, Munro’s great-grand-nephew Lee Munro made several land speed runs on a modern Indian Scout.

Munro’s 1967 record is unbeaten for the 1000cc motorcycle class. The younger Munro’s specially built Indian Scout runs in the 1350cc class, and was never intended to attempt to beat his ancestor’s record. The 1967 record was originally recorded as an average two-way speed of 183.59 mph but after his son John noticed a calculation error in 2014, the official record now sits at 184.087 mph.

When John Munro contacted Indian Motorcycle’s management team to ask if they wanted to recognize his father’s deed, the company was all in, said Kevin Reilly, Indian vice president of marketing. Indian engineers and tuning specialists worked on their own time modifying a 2017 Indian Scout for the Spirit of Munro 50th anniversary commemorative runs.

Spirit of Munro 50thIn qualification runs at the El Mirage Dry Lakebed in California in July, Lee Munro set his own world record of 186.681 mph, besting the previous mark of 167 mph for the modified, partially streamlined, gas-powered motorcycle 1350cc or less. Two Indian engineers, Chet Michaelson and Dan Gervais also set new records at El Mirage. To say the Indian Motorcycle’s racing team is a focused group would be a powerful understatement.

The Spirit of Munro 50th anniversary commemoration was held at the beginning of Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Lee and John Munro and other Munro family members were there along with Indian Motorcycle personnel. Digital Trends was there to join in the celebration and to observe Lee Munro’s speed runs on the salt.

Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats is managed by the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA). The SCTA sets up three land speed courses for Speed Week: a 9-0 mile Long Course, a 5-mile Short Course, and a 3-mile Rookie Course. Anyone can register for the Rookie Course, the others require qualification.

On his first run Saturday, August 12, Munro’s official top speed on the Short Course was 191.286 mph.

On Munro’s second run in the middle of the day Saturday his official speed was 182.439 mph. When he got back to the pit he told his crew the salt in the middle of the course was soft and slushy.

On Sunday Munro made one run on the Long Course with an official top speed of  186.415 mph.

Munro also made one run on the Long Course on Monday, with a top speed of 180.428 mph. Speed Week continues through August 18. Depending on conditions and the Indian Racing team and his decision, Munro may make additional attempts. The team may also go back to El Mirage. The goal is to get to 200 mph.

At the end of the day Sunday, the team set up an outdoor screen and showed the film The World’s Fastest Indian to invited guests and of the public. One gentleman showed up with the most appropriate seat on the desert, a vintage Indian Motorcycle.


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