Interview by Carli Ann Smith
In June this year Becci Ellis officially became the fastest woman on earth, clocking up an unbelievable 248.5mph on her Suzuki Hayabusa. MoreBikes.co.uk chatted to her to find out her hopes, fears and just what it feels like to go that fast…
“I had a dream when I was younger that I was going to be the best at something. It wasn’t until I started riding motorcycles that I realised that this is what my dream was about. The need for speed is inside my veins, and it was only a matter of time before I could live my dream in becoming the fastest woman on earth on two wheels.”
Becci’s current race bike, a Suzuki Hayabusa 1300cc Turbo, was originally bought as a spares bike and is closer to standard than you may think…
“I’ve ridden many motorcycles over the last 30 years, from little 70cc step through bikes to my turbo Hayabusa. It’s remained pretty standard, with the original frame and swing arm, braking system and fairing panels. Ton the engine, the bottom-end is unchanged, and I’ve got a slightly modified top-end – and a turbo of course! It rides like a normal road bike, but performance-wise, when racing, it’s in a class of its own. All of this is controlled via a Motec engine management system.
“It was bought originally to provide spare parts for our quarter drag ‘BDRTop Bike’ but I decided to test the performance of this Standard Hayabusa at the first TopSpeed event held at Woodbridge, Suffolk in 2008 and set a top speed of 183.1mph, winning a trophy for ‘fastest lady’. This inspired me to continue to the end of the seasonreaffirming my ‘fastest lady’ title at each event. It did mean that Mike had to find another bike or engine to use for spares as I was hooked.”
Travelling at such high speeds – other than being fast, what makes a good race bike?
“It has to be reliable, comfortable and powerful. Both my road and race bikes have all these qualities. I have to say though; I favour the Hayabusa a bit more as it has to be the smoothest and most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden – especially at high speed.”
Even though Becci rides the bike, it’s the support from her husband and other volunteers that allows her to put in those fast runs.
“My husband looks after the main parts of the bike like the engine, but has a gang of others to assist if he needs them. These guys volunteer their time – mainly on race days – where each and every one of us works as a team and know exactly what our job is during the day. Our pits have been compared to looking like an F1 garage by on-lookers.”
Setting world records isn’t a cheap business and Becci estimates they’ve spent over £10,000 on achieving her dream.
“We bought the standard Hayabusa back in 2008 and we knew that it wasn’t going to be cheap. With a complete engine strip and modification to make it turbocharged, we knew it would take a chunk of our savings – on top of that we had to rewire it and fit the Motec engine management system. We didn’t have any full sponsors at first, but were lucky that many friends and colleagues supported us and continue to do so. We had an unexpected engine rebuild too after a cam chain broke…”
Travelling at over 200mph on two wheels is something that many people can only ever imagine – so what does it feel like to go that fast?
“Exhilarating. It’s like a craving – once I’ve completed one top-speed run, I can’t wait for the next. Setting off from the top of the runway I launch the bike, pulling back on the throttle reaching about 90mph; I get the signal from the specially fitted LED shift light which illuminates a steady red light telling me I’ve reached my max rev limit (11,500 rpm); I press the air-shifter to change into second gear, keeping the throttle wide open I can feel the power increasing; continuing to change up, I reach top gear and fly through the chequer boards set up on the mile.
“Shutting the throttle off and applying the brakes gently I have just over half a mile to bring the bike to a safe speed, when I can turn to the right off the main runway to return to the paddock area. There isn’t much time to think about anything during the run as you’re concentrating on the track ahead, listening to and feeling how the bike is performing.”
Recalibrating back to normal speeds after going so quick must be challenging.
“You have to be vigilant and fully aware at the end of a run especially as you return to the pit area as the adrenaline is running pretty high at this stage. It doesn’t take me long to readjust to normal speeds even after a full day racing. Usually I’m pretty calm and feel very satisfied after a day running.”
Some may think of Becci as a superwoman, but she’s got fears like all of us…
“I have complete trust in my husband and team for preparing and checking my bike – this gives me confidence. I’m not scared of what I’m doing, but I do get butterflies before the first run of the day, which I consider normal. I am terrified of spiders though!”
And despite getting her thrills on the strip, Becci still chooses to ride a Suzuki Bandit 1250cc on the road.
“It’s great to get out on my road bike and away from all the racing and competition. I just go for a ride on the open roads to blow off a few cobwebs. I enjoy the freedom that I get without distraction, and I’m lucky that there are some great roads where we live. You would think it was an anti-climax, but it’s a totally different ball game. When I’m on the road, I respect the law and keep to speed limits. I like to enjoy the countryside and see the beautiful country we live in.”
What’s the next step?
“There’s only 1.5mph to go before the milestone of 250mp,h so that’s my next aim. With the assistance of my tyre sponsor – Andy from A18 Tyres and Accessories, Alan Brown and Mark Wells from Team Mess and Rick Stubbins, European drag champion from Protec racing – we have lots of data. All that we need now is perfect track conditions and good weather.”
You can see Becci in action at the World Wheelie Records at Elvington Airfield (YO41 4AU) on August 16 and 17 as she attempts 250mph. For more information visit:www.straightliners-events.co.uk
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