A year ago, Mark Bjorklund went to the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah, and immediately, he said, "got bitten by the bug."
Last month he cemented his name among some of the greats at the speedway, as he rode a motorcycle that he, his brother Carl and Jason Omer constructed at their Super Rat Racing shop in Bellingham to a land speed record.
"Right after I got to Bonneville, I wanted to go fast," Bjorklund said in a phone interview. "You climb the mountain because you enjoy the journey and you want to stand at the summit. We definitely enjoyed the journey, but we wanted to stand at the summit, and let me tell you, we really enjoy standing there."
Bjorklund and his team took two bikes they constructed to the 2012 BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials, which were held Aug. 25-30 at Bonneville - a 2007 Ducati Monster S4RS and an unconventional twin engine Yamaha - with their sights set on putting their names in the record book.
Bjorklund made 11 passes on the 5-mile long course on the dried lake bed riding the Ducati during the week, and on Aug. 28, he had a top pass speed of 166.329 mph.
Rules require teams to make a pass in the other direction within two hours, and the two speeds are averaged for an official time.
Bjorklund's second pass registered at 164.328 mph, and the resulting 165.329 mph average shattered the old record in the 1,000cc special construction altered gas (1,000 cc A-AG) classification of 150.502 mph set in 1975 by J. Bartlett on a Triumph.
"It was incredible," Bjorklund said. "It was a lifelong dream of mine just to go to Bonneville. It was like getting to stand alongside some of the giants to be able to say we hold a world record. It was awesome. It was definitely the thrill of victory and a reward for all our efforts."
The slowest of Bjorklund's 11 passes - 158 mph - actually would have broken the record, but he said he was "ecstatic" to break the mark by such a large margin.
The Yamaha, which was ridden by Bellingham's Jose Mateu, wasn't quite as fortunate, as mechanical issues kept its top speed in the 70s - short of the 106 mph record the group was chasing in that classification.
"Hey that happens," Bjorklund said. "We had a great time, regardless. We would have had a great time even if we didn't get the record. Just going to Bonneville is an amazing experience."
And not one that comes easily, Bjorklund said.
He estimated he, his brother and Omer put between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of work into preparing the Ducati to race.
"We constructed the entire frame and everything," Bjorklund said. "The only things that were the same were the engine and the rear wheel."
During that same time, the group built the Yamaha, a task Bjorklund said was "probably a little too much to do at the same time."
But their efforts were obviously rewarded when they got to Utah.
"It's such an amazing atmosphere," Bjorklund said. "Nobody is competing against each other. Everybody is helping everyone else to go faster. Nobody has an ego. Everybody has somebody that helped them get there, and it's just such a neat environment. It's very much a team sport and very friendly sport."
It's an atmosphere Bjorklund and his crew attempted to profile in a Facebook movie "Out of Nothing."
The Super Rat Racing team isn't done, yet, either.
They plan to take both the Ducati and Yamaha, as well as a fuel-injected, turbo-charged Harley, back to Bonneville next year to chase some more records.
Bjorklund said two years down the road, the team plans to chase a two-man record of more than 200 mph with a twin engine Yamaha side car 600 horse power machine.
"We will definitely take the Ducati again next year with some streamlining and some engine modifications and chase some records we left standing," Bjorklund said. "It's a lot of work. It takes a lot of passion and commitment to race at Bonneville. It takes a lot of effort just to get there. It's not something you do once a year on vacation, where you just roll the motorcycle out of the garage and go racing. You have to be diligent and passionate about chasing a record. In the end, though, it was all worth it. It was an honor to be able to work with my brother and my best friend and to be able to set a record with them."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.