Why Damian Muscat’s speeds weren’t legit (or: so you want to ride a fuel bike)

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If there was one racer to leave the 2017 Gulf Western Oil Winternationals with a new fan club it was Top Bike rider Damian Muscat.

The Nitro Phoenix team had a constant surrounding of visitors to their pit area after a spectacular pair of runs during Saturday qualifying for the event, where Muscat carried the front wheel of his nitro Harley all the way to the finish line and produced speeds of 253mph and 249mph.

Such recordings generated a lot of comment on the achievement but unfortunately they can not be considered legitimate. However the reason why shows just how extreme a sport drag racing is.

Muscat was carrying the front wheel for almost the entire length of the quarter mile; the key word being almost.

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Speeds are measured in drag racing used a 66 feet long speed trap. The first beam of the finish line is used to measure a time to the second beam, which can then be used to calculate speed – more to the point, the average speed of a vehicle travelling through the speed trap.

Muscat, awesomely, was carrying the front wheel straight over the first beam (shown above) and dropping it right before the finish beam (shown below) which means he was effectively shortening the distance of the speed trap by the distance of his front tyre to the rear tyre, which we reckon is about six feet. If you look really carefully below you can see the slight haze from the puff of smoke as the front wheel hits the deck, like a plane landing – and check out how Muscat is getting thrown out of the seat as it lands.

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You can use distance, time and speed equations to figure out that to do 253mph over a 66 feet long speed trap requires about .177 of a second. But with a 60 feet long speed trap, which is what Muscat’s incredible ride reduced it to, the speed works out to about 230mph – about right for a nitro Harley on a sweet pass.

Below is the second pass he made with the 253mph speed.

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Muscat has now sold the bike to a new rider, but he has earned our eternal respect for those rides at the Winternationals.  

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