Nigel's Salt Flat Racer

July 29, 2020

Nigel's Salt Flat Racer

Earnest co-owner Nigel Petrie has always wanted to set a land speed record on South Australia’s Dry Lakes salt flats after visiting an event there as a kid. Being a bit of a dreamer at heart, this was never Nigel’s only big idea, of course, but he quickly realised this one was well within reach after checking the current records for the 350cc class. It was only 88mph — speeds that he was nearly reaching as is on his stock KTM 350 SX-F motocross bike… It was time to build a bike and absolutely decimate some records. 


Starting with his 350 SX-F, Nigel stripped the bike down and began sketching out a new long-and-low silhouette, the chassis of which was fabricated using Chromoly tubing in the space of a week. The wheelbase was stretched to 1800mm, allowing Nigel to lay right down on the bike, and the rear wheel position was lifted up to create an aggressive rake. A custom fuel tank was also fabricated, which also doubles as a seat and a place to store the electricals. 


Interestingly, as many of the original KTM components were retained as possible. Nigel explains: “The idea behind using all stock components — including the forks — was that I could take the frame, tank, clip-ons, and shifter setup in a bag to California. There I’d hire a KTM 350, ride to Bonneville, build the bike on race day, set a land speed record, return the bike to stock, take it back and fly home with the Australian land speed and world land speed record to my name,”


Objectively, this ‘KTM’ is now far worse than the stock motocross bike it started life as. It no longer turns very well, and we definitely wouldn’t suggest attempting a rhythm section or double on it... but for its intended purpose — that is, going very fast in a straight line — It’s perfect. “It’s a real hands-on bike and I mean that quite literally,” says Nigel. “Because I essentially lay down on the bike, it means that foot controls would be difficult to integrate, so instead I designed a hand shift that is cable operated by a twist grip on the left handlebar, on the right you have your throttle and with the clutch and brake also mounted up there, you have a bit to do. The track has a 3-mile stretch to gain speed before you reach the timers. On a bike like this, I’m nearing 200kph before I get to them and then tucking everything I can in to try and cause the least amount of aero resistance.”

So did Nigel break the record? The bike’s theoretical top speed is almost double the current best, after all. You’ll just have to watch the film to find out.   

For a taste of what you’ll see, check out the trailer below.

FLATS from Matte Media on Vimeo.






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