SEQUIM — Sequim resident George McMurray isn’t giving up on motorcycles just yet, but he admits his days of trying to set speed records is likely over.
Fortunately the team seems to be in good hands, with McMurray’s son Alan helping the multi-generational team Tri-Mac Speedsters earning not one but two world records at the Speed Week World Finals event at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in late September and early October.
“The salt was better than its ever been: dry, hard, smooth. It’s fast,” McMurray said. “(The bike) just ran flawlessly.”
McMurray started racing and competing in 2010 and earned world records at Speed Week during its primary event held annually in early August.
In 2017, the Tri-Mac Speedsters — consisting of George and sons Alan (driver) and Daniel (crew) and wife Connie (logo designer/supporter) — lost their record to an Australian team. Since then, the team had tried to regain the record in their classification APS-BF 100c. (The division header stands for special chassis, partial streamline blown fuel, 100cc displacement).
Each year, Speed Week hosts a secondary event, World Finals, that takes place a couple of months later, giving racers a second chance at setting world marks. COVID-19 kept a number of international teams from competing but the races continue to be held with guidelines in place, McMurray said.
Weather at World Finals can be a bit more challenging — Speed Week in early August can hit 100 degrees, McMurray said, while this World Finals event dropped to 46 degrees and had the first day wiped out by 30-mile-per-hours winds.
On the first day of racing, Tri-Mac Speedsters suffered a major engine problem, dubbed “cold seizure,” caused by the lower-than-normal temperatures to their bike — one made of the team’s own design from a 1985 Yamaha RX50 (chassis and wheels) and parts from a 1975 Kawasaki KE125 and a 1993 Yamaha YZ-125 (“we call the engine “Kawayama,”McMurray noted.)
“When you’re’ working with (these kinds of) engines, more things can go wrong,” he said.
That held true for McMurray’s team: the bike’s back wheel locked up on a training run, but Alan — a former skateboarder and snowboarder — stayed on the bike and slowed it rather than “dumping” it, McMurray noted.
“He’s really good on the bike,” McMurray said of Alan.
Fortunately, a team racing Harley Davidson bikes helped McMurray and crew using muriatic acid to help shed some of the aluminum build-up on their damaged cylinder.
On day two, after two relatively slow (85 mph) passes, Alan McMurray put the Tri-Mac Speedsters’ bike on the course and recorded a 112-mile second mile, one mile per hour better than the Australians’ record. The average of two runs are required to secure the world record, however.
The process, McMurray said, goes that record-setting vehicles are “impounded” until 7 a.m. the next day, when teams can run a second time. On day three, Alan and the Tri-Mac Speedsters recorded a 116-mile-per-hour mile, pushing the new world record to 114 mph.
With a record in hand and another day to go, McMurray and crew decided to try for a record in another classification. Speed World organizers allow for a class change, so the Tri-Mac Speedsters stripped off the aluminum siding that helps with aerodynamics to run “naked,” he said, in the A-BF 100cc class.
Alan raced the bike to a 102-mile-per-hour first run — the previous record was 94 mph — and, with the final run of World Finals, clocked in at 104 mph, setting the average at 103 and a second world record.
Two records? “It’s not common,” McMurray noted.
He said he soon got a note from the Australian team congratulating the Tri-Mac crew.
“They’re just good folks,” he said.
McMurray, who last raced at Speed Week in 2020, will take a proverbial back seat to Alan, a mechanical engineer who works in the industrial refrigeration business in Ballard, when it comes to racing the bike.
The team might try to mix things up in coming years, McMurray said; he’s considering adding a sidecar to the bike to compete in another class. Drivers don’t race with a person in the sidecar but they have to be built to support another person, he said.
“It’s slower … but it’d still be a fun ride.”
McMurray was an aerospace engineer for years until he and family moved from the Mojave Desert area in California to Sequim around 2000. He then settled his family because of the area’s good schools.
Racing is in the family blood: His brother Joe, who died in 2000, helped spur the family into the sport. George, Joe and another brother, Jim, formed the Tri-Mac Speedsters, the team name McMurray still uses.
A longtime mechanic who built a clientele from those looking to finish projects — everything from massive upgrades to vintage vehicles to “prototypes” such as a special seeding device, CD disc polisher and underwater camera robot — McMurray first visited Bonneville in 2008. Looking over the flat, 40-square-mile topography of salt crust near Wendover, Utah, inspired him to try his hand at speed records.
Most operations are home-based operations, he noted, with no prize money but personal pride, bragging rights and one’s name in a record book at stake.
With professional rider Jen Boller at the handlebars, McMurray’s bike set a world record just two years later, in 2010, but encountered problems the next two years. In 2013, he set a record at Bonneville in the “blown fuel” classification.
McMurray had done some speed testing of his bike at the Sequim Valley Airport, but now uses land in Eastern Washington made available by a wheat farming friend.
The long strips of ag land has a particular advantage, McMurray said: “You can see animals in advance.”
Tri-Mac Speedsters sponsors include Maxima Racing Oils, Port Angeles Power Equipment, In Graphic Detail, A-1 Auto, Dog House Powder Coating and Sailing S Orchards, among numerous friends and other supporters.
For more about Speed Week and World Finals, visit scta-bni.org.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at ed[email protected].