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Draper man fails to break motorcycle speed record near Grantsville

Published June 29, 2008 4:52 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Posted: 4:52 PM- GRANTSVILLE - The call over the radio came on the last run of the day from Kenneth Merena's racing team, the call that his motorcycle had collapsed, blew its engine, and that he needed to be picked up.

For Merena, 60, of Draper, and his team, it was a frustrating Sunday morning, as they closed Rowley road in Tooele County with the hopes of breaking the Land Speed Record for an open cockpit motorcycle. That record was set last year by Jon Noonan, at 265.4 mph.

What they got was an endless stream of mechanical problems, a ton of heat, wind speeds that wouldn't cooperate and the knowledge that some minor and major tweaking would be needed to enter the record books.

"We were learning about some things today," Merena said. "We were learning about the bike, and what we could do with it. We learned about the course, and I think we have to find another stretch of road that's a bit smoother. And that breaks my heart because the people of Tooele County have been so nice to me. The sheriff's office let me close the road, and they've been so welcoming. In that sense, it breaks my heart because I want to break the record for the people of Tooele County."

Breaking the record, despite many attempts over a four-hour time frame, wasn't to be for Merena. His top speed attained was 209 mph, which was accomplished on the second to last run of the day. Before that, Merena had managed to break the 200 mph barrier just three times over the course of the day.

At the crux of his issues was the motorcycle, one that had just received a brand new engine that Merena and his team were running for the first time Sunday.

Merena blew a hose, he also had turbo and boost issues that his mechanics fixed, re-fixed and fixed again in the searing heat that became more unforgiving by the hour.

It would've been easy for Merena to quit early, call it a day and re-schedule the entire thing. But if Merena and his team showed anything on Sunday, it was a resiliency that allowed them to fight through a number of roadblocks to keep going.

Merena twice hit rough spots on the 3.7-mile course that caused his front wheel to go airborne. Besides that, he never could get into the kind of rhythm that allowed for a record to be broken.

Merena said he would definitely attempt to break the record again, but didn't set a date.

"I hit a hump, and the wheel came up, and that caused me to back off the bike," Merena said. "I was 60 mph away. That's really not that much overall. It has to be realized that nobody has every done this before. Nobody has ever tried to go this fast, so we have to learn from this and get better."

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