High Velocity: Interview with Valerie Thompson

Aug 22, 2015 View Comments by

High Velocity: Interview with Valerie ThompsonLand Speed Racer –

High Velocity: Interview with Valerie ThompsonValerie Thompson
Seven motorcycle land speed records, a top speed of 217.7 mph in the standing mile, and membership in multiple 200 MPH Clubs—these are just some of the impressive accomplishments associated with land speed racer Valerie Thompson. But there’s much more to Valerie’s career than mere numbers. Off the track, she works as a vehicle presenter at one of the world’s most popular auto auctions as well as volunteers her time for charitable work with HopeKids.org. Along the way, she has garnered numerous awards and recognition for her work both on and off a motorcycle.

RR: How did you get your start riding motorcycles?
Valerie Thompson: I started riding motorcycles in 1999. After a friend offered me a ride on the back seat of his bike, I quickly found out that, I, too had the desire to ride. He took me to a dealership, and right then and there I purchased a 1999 Harley-Davidson Sportster. Three months later, I sold my Sportster and bought a Harley-Davidson Fatboy. I have been addicted to two wheels ever since.

Your racing career began in 2006. What led up to that life-changing decision?
After a friend told me I was out of control on my Harley, I realized the safest and best place to fulfill my new addiction to speed was on a sanctioned racetrack. My first visit was to Phoenix International Raceway for a “Run Whatcha Brung” drag racing competition where I did very well. My racing career started there.

High Velocity: Interview with Valerie ThompsonWhat about land speed racing drew you to the sport?
After racing my street bike as a hobby, I started racing in the All Harley Drag Racing series and progressed to fielding an NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle entry. I love the one-versus-one aspect of drag racing. However, I hated shutting down the bike after a quarter-mile knowing how much performance was left. Quite simply, I wanted to go faster. I was asked by my sponsor to come to the salt flats and pilot their bike at the BUB Speed Trials. After that experience, I was hooked on land speed racing.

What safety measures are in place to protect you at 200-plus mph?
I guarantee you that I have the best safety equipment. These include my BMW S 1000 RR, Schuberth SR1 helmet, and riding leathers provided by BMW Motorrad along with boots and gloves. As a motorcycle racer, your best protection is a great team, mental preparation, and all the wonderful volunteer safety workers who staff each racing event. Each of us who compete relies on the highly-trained volunteers who stand by to take care of us in the event of an accident. I can’t say enough about how much we appreciate their efforts.

You race a BMW S 1000 RR. What led you to this particular motorcycle?
I was contacted by Kerry Alter Racing, an independent motorcycle land speed racing team, about piloting one of their bikes at the BUB Speed Trials in 2011. My designated ride was a 2010 BMW S 1000 RR. It was the first time I had ever ridden a BMW. From the moment I got on the bike I knew it was built for me. Every inch of the vehicle is designed for the rider to go as fast as possible, whether it’s the comfort of the seat, the responsiveness of the throttle, or superior braking technology. I left Bonneville committed to taking control of my racing destiny by creating an all-new land speed racing team with a BMW as the centerpiece. Immediately after the race, I purchased a 2012 BMW S 1000 RR at my favorite hometown dealer and sponsor, Go AZ Motorcycles of Scottsdale.

High Velocity: Interview with Valerie ThompsonWhat modifications have been made to the bike to make it race ready?
Exceeding last year’s top speed of 217 mph will be no easy feat, but I’m confident about all the work we’ve done in the off-season to make this BMW even faster. Some of the improvements and modifications include HP Race Parts, an Akrapovič high-performance exhaust system, and an alpha Racing LED dashboard. We will also test Magic Bullet Advanced Fuel Treatment for extra horsepower.

Land speed racing isn’t just an individual sport; tell us about your support team.
I have a number of reliable people who have helped support every aspect of my racing through the years. Since each race requires different support elements, I have many individuals and volunteers who help with bike prep and race day responsibilities. The highly-trained staff at Go AZ Motorcycles of Scottsdale and HP Race Parts provide excellent technical support before every competition. The most critical team members are my loyal sponsors who deliver the funding to make it all happen.

How do you practice for a record attempt?
We prep the bike based on the distance and surface we will be racing at each competition, which may be a mile or more. Physical fitness and mental focus are two major priorities in land speed racing. The heat during a long day of runs can really zap your energy level, and your concentration can deteriorate quickly. At 200 mph, you must be focused on the bike’s performance and handling or pay the consequences. During a race week, I get plenty of rest and eat balanced meals to sustain a high energy level. The top priority is keeping electrolytes fully charged and maintaining proper body hydration, so I always have bottled water and trail mix on hand.

What are some of the techniques and tricks of high speed riding?
Major land speed racing events are held on a variety of surfaces, ranging from salt flats and dry dirt deserts to paved airport runways. The first priority is preparing for the track surface and its distance. That means addressing tire configuration, gear selection, weather conditions, and numerous other considerations. On race day, the big trick is figuring out wind conditions, surface adhesion, and choosing the optimal riding position.

You’ve reached 217 mph. What is your ultimate goal, and what do you think is possible?
I’m an optimist, so I believe anything is possible if you are willing to work hard enough to achieve your objectives. Here are the goals I present to every potential new sponsor:
• Become the best known female motorcycle racer in the U.S. by becoming the world’s fastest female on two wheels.
• Be an effective role model for young women interested in motorsports.
• Deliver the highest promotional value for sponsors and team partners.

What is your favorite racing event and why?
Almost any speed competition held at the Bonneville Salt Flats, since it truly is the world’s Cathedral of Speed set in one of the most unique geographic formations on earth. Where else can you go full throttle and see the curvature of the world? I would have to say the Bonneville Speed Trials is my favorite Bonneville competition since that’s where I got my start in land speed racing, and it’s dedicated to only motorcycle racers.

What accomplishments are you most proud of and which ones do you still look forward to achieving?
What a difficult question! Professionally, I would have to say my first land speed racing record in 2012 since that’s what led to so many of my racing achievements. On a personal basis, earning the annual “American Women Riders Community Hero Award” for my work with HopeKids.org was very gratifying.

What do you do when you’re not competing?
I have worked as a vehicle presenter at Barrett-Jackson and Metro Auto Auctions in Scottsdale for more than six years. I also make more than 20 promotional appearances each year as a team owner and sponsor ambassador.

Is your motorcycle riding confined to competition, or do you ride for leisure as well?
My racing career was born from my love of riding motorcycles on the open road; it’s a true passion for me, so I ride whenever I can. Whether it’s an evening cruise on my Fatboy to “decompress” after a hard day or leading the International Female Ride Day contingent of women bikers on a day-long tour through central Arizona, I’m ready to go. I don’t need an excuse to take a two-wheel tour anywhere.

What’s next for Valerie Thompson Racing?
I will return to Germany for the weeklong BMW Motorrad Days celebration and begin testing with a former Nationwide NASCAR racing team owner at Bonneville. I can’t wait to hit the salt with a four-wheel vehicle for the first time. Stay tuned—you’ll be hearing a lot of great news from Valerie Thompson Racing and her sponsors.



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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.