So, what do vintage Japanese motorcycles, the flat-out speed of the Bonneville Salt Flats, and punk rock, f*** it all attitude have in common? Hot Carl Racing, that’s what.
There are some people that you know have one hell of a story, and the combo of Dan Osborne and Mike Dillard of Hot Carl Racing are just the type of enthusiasts that we love at Old Bike Barn. Recently, while Bear was shooting for yet another speed record at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats, he came across a couple of dudes with a set of outrageously fabricated Yamaha XS650’s that he had never met before. Turns out, these guys not only ran one hell of a bike but had an incredibly interesting story to tell.
There’s just something about the Northwest that sparks a deep well of angst, and energy that seems to seep out of every pore of those willing to explore the rage. Dan and Mike grew up a few miles from the birthplace of such unknown bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. There’s no need to go into the absurd level of popularity of music from this era but that Northwest Noise formed a bond between Dan and Mike who were swept up in the music of the era and struck out on their own to form their own band; The Hot Carls. For Dan and Mike, the 90's was heavy music, dirt bikes, partying, and good times.
This shared love of music would form a bond between Dan and Mike that would transcend time. Flash forward many years, many mosh pits, and 2 entirely separate careers later - Dan and Mike were looking for their next project together but this time it wouldn’t be in music. The History and attitude of Bonneville had always captivated both Mike and Dan, but getting onto the track always seemed a bit out of reach. After all, the strict requirements to even touch the salt often make running at Bonneville little more than a dream for most.
Since they had always been infatuated with motorcycles (and owned everything from Harleys to Hondas) they turned their attention to vintage Japanese bikes for a shot at making it on the salt without blowing their budget.
Working on a garage budget, Dan and Mike started to peel through classified ads for the parts to create the ultimate vintage race bike. They almost immediately landed on the infamous, if not somewhat forgotten Yamaha XS650. For Dan and Mike, going this route was an easy choice since they had a connection to this unique Triumph killer from the early 1970s via Dan’s father who owned one. Cheap, reliable, and fast as hell - the Yamaha XS650 is everything you want out of a vintage Japanese motorcycle. It would be the perfect modified rig to run at the salt flats.
After browsing OfferUp, Craigslist, and every other sort of classified service - Dan and Mike began the process of building a pair of XS650 motorcycles from the ashes of an OfferUp bundle o’ bikes, and a mud bound, found in the field bike that was a complete restoration. Part of the spirit and allure of vintage Japanese iron is building a speed machine that is never done the easy way. Maybe it’s that vintage grunge punk rock attitude from the Hot Carl days, but attaining speed the hard way was simply not a question for Dan or Mike. Sure, it’s easier to go out and by a superbike to hit obscene speeds on a track but what fun is that?
After many long nights in the garage, broken plans, and bloody knuckles; Hot Carl Racing had a pair of working Yamaha XS650’s and was headed for Speed Week at Bonneville. The goal was really simple: just survive. Neither Dan nor Mike had any delusions of grandeur and frankly didn’t expect to do quite as well as they did but with a little luck, and some assistance from the incredible community that regularly haunts Bonneville Speed Week; their first time on the salt was an incredible experience.
For those unfamiliar with running on the salt, you don’t just show up, fire up the bike and rip down the salt. The entire event is closely regulated, including a series of inspections by event staff that precludes most garage wrenchers from hitting the salt and rules that require riders to rock regulation safety gear. Not looking to do anything half-ass, Hot Carl Racing showed up ready to rock and sailed through the inspections with little issues. For a group of rockers on a garage budget, they were remarkably well put together.
These intrepid first-timers didn’t do this trek alone and were helped out by Jenny Shaw, Joel Dillard, Zane Dillard, and Alex Dillard. In addition, Hot Carl received was not only encouraged by Bear but experienced Bear’s generosity on the third day after waking up to a completely shredded innertube on his bike’s rear tire. Dan walked from pit to pit in an attempt to salvage a tube but low and behold, Bear and Old Bike Barn team happened to have a new one ready to go in the box! Hot Carl Racing clipped their fastest run of the trip the very next day on this donated tube. They also received plenty of guidance from Bonneville experts like Kyle from Lowbrow Racing that helped them get to the end of the week with remarkably few issues.
Dan and Mike’s time out on the salt is a testament to why this community is so incredible. Ego’s, attitudes, and unnecessary bullshit have no place in an alien landscape like the Bonneville salt flat. This is the realm of tinkerers like AB Jenkins and Sir Malcolm Campbell who started running their hand-built machines to land speed records in the 1930s. All the drama of the outside world has no place in Bonneville and teams like Hot Carl Racing are keeping the dream alive, one vintage bike at a time.
See you next year!
Story by Daniel Russo