Bill Whisenant and North America’s Fastest Ducati

Motorcycle Performance Team Bonneville 2012: (L-R) Bob Crook, Nick Moore, Fred Weege, Chris “Louie” L’Amore, Bill Whisenant, Noel Hackbarth, Jacki Whisenant and Jim Kovacs.
Motorcycle Performance Team Bonneville 2012: (L-R) Bob Crook, Nick Moore, Fred Weege, Chris “Louie” L’Amore, Bill Whisenant, Noel Hackbarth, Jacki Whisenant and Jim Kovacs.

North America’s Fastest Ducati

Bill Whisenant is one of the senior statesmen of speed. His shop, Motorcycle Performance in Madison, Wis., has been the home of winning bikes on the road course, drag strip and salt flats for 35 years.

When he isn’t wrenching on his racing machines or customer’s machines, he is selling new Hyosung motorcycles, carefully selected pre-owned bikes, and a range of parts, lubricants, shop manuals, custom decals, accessories, apparel and gear.

His shop can even supply small quantity raw materials of tubing, sheet stock and components for individual custom builder projects. Perhaps the most valuable thing available at his shop doesn’t even have a price tag on it: technical expertise from guys with years of experience working on all types of new and vintage machinery, including those types with jaw-dropping performance credentials.

Success in competition in all those venues doesn’t come easy or quick; it takes years of work, analytical skill, trial and error, critical thinking and a good sense of humor. Whisenant has all those characteristics and brings them out in all his staff.

One of the passions Whisenant brings is for speed — and lots of it. He builds machines for all-out land speed racing on the salt flats of Bonneville and gut-wrenching acceleration on the drag strip.

We had been hoping to include in this article his latest records from the 2014 SCTA World Finals at Bonneville, but for the second year in a row, the SCTA World Finals have been cancelled due to poor weather conditions causing large tracts of the salt flats to be too wet for competition or under water.

Nonetheless, we are able to talk about the achievements to date. For example in 2012, Whisenant and his team took his Ducati 999-based partially streamlined LSR (land speed racing) bike to Bonneville and established it as the fastest Ducati in America. How fast? How about 212.959 mph.

Whisenant’s other bike, a Ducati 749-based rocket, runs both the salt and the quarter mile and in July 2014, became the quickest Ducati in the world in the quarter mile turning in a burning 7.99 second ET and 178.54 terminal speed.

As with all things worth doing, getting to this level did not happen overnight. On the salt, it has been a progression, a work-in-progress since 2007 when the Ducati 999 reached 159.567 mph.

In 2009, the top speed jumped to 195.655 mph and in 2010, Whisenant joined the 200 mph club with a 205.089 mph performance. In 2011, there was huge frustration, as the team got all the way to the salt, only to see the entire event canceled because of bad weather. In 2012, the salt was good to the Motorcycle Performance team and the 999 turned in its best performance ever reaching 212.959 mph.

Since then, however the weather has been cursed by rain and wind causing both the 2013 and 2014 World Finals events on the salt to be called off.

Along the way, the 999 has evolved with on-going improvements in aerodynamics, fueling systems and other engine mods that have it powering the 645 lbs. bike with 98-inch wheel base down the salt with 305 horsepower.

It was the first Ducati to go over 200 mph at Bonneville in 2010 and the first Ducati to exceed 210 mph there in 2012. Whisenant’s goal for 2014 was to exceed 221 mph, enough to make the Mega Duc(k) as his 999 is known, the world’s fastest Ducati—that goal will have to wait until 2015.

The 749 Ducati — also referred to as the Mini-Duc(k) — didn’t make its first appearance at Bonneville until 2012, though it made the same rain-ruined trip to Bonneville in 2011 as the 999.

In the 2012 competition, a best speed of 172.218 mph was achieved, fast enough to easily top the existing record of 167.824 mph, though a return run was not completed to seal the deal for a new record in the class.

The 749 has had its wheelbase stretched to 64 inches and its horsepower amped up to 200 at the rear wheel. As is the case with the 999, the bike has been in a constant state of development and improvement, as is reflected in its performance at the drag strip.

In 2011, it progressed from a best performance of 10.97 sec. ET @ 132.84 mph in October, to 9.21 sec ET @ 140.28 mph before the end of the year. In 2012, the bike’s best performance was 8.73 sec. ET @ 152.81 mph.

In early 2014, the 749 inched ever closer to the goal of a sub-eight second ET with a run of 8.08 sec. ET @ 170.92 mph early in the year. In July, the 749 broke through the eight second barrier with a run of 7.99 second ET and 178.54 mph.

So, with ever higher top speeds and quicker quarter mile times yet to be achieved, work continues and innovations continue to be developed for 2015, as Whisenant and his team continue to pull yet more power from their bikes.

Whisenant summed it up like this soon after returning from the Manufacturer’s Cup drag races in Georgia in early November: “We returned from Georgia at 9:00 Monday morning and are deciding what the next courses of action will be on the projects.  It appears the newest nitro 999 motor and the turbo gas platform both are going to require more finesse and patience than I have to get them productively down the dragstrip, so we are deciding what new chassis configuration can work for the blower platform as well as the others, due to power output.”

For much more on the history-making crew and machines at Motorcycle Performance, click here.

Photography by Jacki Whisenant and by Gary Ilminen