Ralph Hudson, FIM World Record Holder for the highest speed on a sit-on, non-streamliner motorcycle, has died from injuries sustained at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Hudson crashed his turbocharged modified Ironwood Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000 after a run on August 14 during the Southern California Timing Association’s Speed Week 2020. Unexpected wind set the motorcycle into a speed wobble, resulting in a crash at over 250 mph. Hudson spent over there weeks in ICU at the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City before dying on September 6.
The 69-year-old Hudson had been on a mission to break the 300 mph barrier for a two-way pass. In 2017, Hudson set a record of 284 mph at Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni—the world’s largest salt flat. Set at 12,000 feet above sea level, the Salar de Uyuni course is longer than Bonneville and benefits from thinner air.
Hudson returned to Bolivia and came tantalizingly close to his 300 mph goal. Although his first run was recorded at 304 mph, his return run dropped the new record to 297 mph.
“It’s great to have gone 300 and to have it officially recognized, but I didn’t do two runs with an average over 300 and get an FIM World Record,” Hudson said afterward. “To know that I have a bike that was capable of doing that but not putting the two runs together is very disappointing. You know, you set your goals, and it’s disappointing if you don’t reach them.”
Hudson began his competitive motorcycle career as a road racer in the 1970s
Hudson was the owner of Ironwood, a specialty fabrication shop in Glendale, Calif., that produced many strikingly creative works. A resident of Alhambra, Hudson is survived by his son, David, and his girlfriend, Leslie Murray. “We sincerely thank everyone for their kind words, prayers and support during this very difficult time,” Murray wrote on the SCTA Facebook page. “Ralph would want everyone to stay strong and keep going fast.”
Photography by FIM/Jean Turner