Guest Ride Report – Loring AFB Speed Trials

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Loring AFB Speed Trials, Limestone, Maine September 2018
Text, Photography, and Video by Ray Sapirstein

Once the Cold War home of a B-52 bomber group, a reserve landing spot for the Space Shuttle, and situated at the northeast corner of the United States right at the Canadian border, Maine’s Loring Air Force base is a holy pilgrimage for those seeking land speed records. Decommissioned in 1994, the former runway represents the longest closed-course asphalt surface in the world available for land speed racing as it is 2 1/2 miles long. In a variety of specialized classes from production vehicles to streamliners, the cars and motorcycles that run here gain greater traction and speeds than the salt or dirt of Bonneville or El Mirage, and with less corrosive effects. In 2013, Bill Warner ran 311 mph on a modified, partially streamlined Suzuki Hayabusa here, where he lost his life on a subsequent run. His record will stand a long while, and the course is named for him.

Located in enormous Aroostook County, and surrounded by potato fields, derelict hangars, support structures, and housing complexes, the track offers post-apocalyptic scenery in a setting straight out of the atomic age and space program. Unlike Bonneville, terminal speeds are announced by loudspeaker after every run and spectators may observe starts up close. Unless you live in Maine, New Brunswick, or Quebec however, Loring is not close; it’s as far from Portland, Maine as is New York City. Food and lodging are available 20 minutes away in Caribou and Presque Isle, and camping is permitted at the track. Temperatures were in the mid-70s during the day this September.

The speed trials are operated for 3 days by the Loring Timing Association twice a year: July and September.

[Editor’s Note: Here are some photos and videos from Ray’s time at the event:]

Paul Koehler’s Yamaha XS 650 Sidecar

135 mph Vintage Triumph 650

Modified Suzuki GSX-R 1000

Purpose-built land speed racer

Driven from NJ and back and raced for 3 days

Chuck Sim’s Ducati 250

Tom Cowgill’s H-D/Aermacchi Sprint 250

Scene at Loring:

Law Enforcement Building

Loring Military Heritage Center