Motorcyclist sets land speed record at 223.8 mph
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When Hurricane resident Mark Dotson drives his truck on Interstate 64, he often goes well below the speed limit.
Dotson, 46, isn't into driving his truck fast, and he isn't into flying his single-engine plane at a high speed, either. But, when he straps on the motorcycle helmet, it's another story altogether.
Dotson recently set the national 2012 land speed record for a street legal motorcycle at a blazing 223.8 mph.
"I never would have thought I would be into something like this," Dotson said. "Speed never really appealed to me."
"If I'm in my truck, and the speed limit is 70, I'm going 65," he said with a chuckle.
Dotson set the yearly speed record on a drag strip at the Ohio Mile racetrack in Wilmington, Ohio, on Sept. 30. And when he set the record, he beat the one he had set earlier in the day.
Dotson had reached 220 mph in the run before he hit 223. However, the motorcycle spun a bit, keeping him from exceeding 220 mph, he said.
"We knew the bike had it in it," Dotson said. "We just knew we couldn't spin."
And on his next run, the bike tires stayed true and he exceeded his previous record-setting attempt, hitting the 223.8 mark.
Dotson does not plan on stopping there.
"Our goal next year is to hit 230 miles per hour," he said.
Dotson set the 2012 land speed record for the unlimited cubic inch nitrous oxide motorcycle class on his 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa. The motorcycle, although super fast, is street legal, and he sometimes even takes it out for a spin - although not so fast as his trip down the drag strip in Ohio.
"I can just put a license plate on it and take it out if I want to," he said.
However, he seldom does that. The bike is a little too long to turn effectively on city streets.
"The bike is stretched in the rear," Dotson said. "So it's hard to turn in the corners."
Turns are not a problem at the Ohio Mile, because the track is a drag strip.
He was clocked at 223.8 mph after a mile run on the strip, he said. The requirement to hit certain speeds in a mile makes it more difficult to break records than at other tracks like the world famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, he said.
This is because racers at the Utah track can warm up their tires and get a running start before the actual race begins, he said. When running at the Ohio Mile, racers start on cold tires.
Cold tires do not grip the track like tires that have been warmed by movement.
The racers on the Ohio Mile drag strip do not compete side by side with other motorcyclists. Instead, their speed is recorded as they rocket down the track.
"You're trying for the best possible speed," he said.
Dotson does not consider himself to be a daredevil.
An Air Force veteran who served during Desert Storm, he now works a desk job as the chief operating officer and founder of A All Animal Control.
The Dunbar-based company deals with animal control issues for private citizens.
"We're the people that come get the bats out of your basement," he said.
But on the weekends, this mild-mannered businessman straps on his helmet and goggles and becomes a crazed speed demon.
Dotson actually considers rocketing down a drag strip as "stress relief."
"Once you put on the helmet, it's you, the bike and the track," he said. "There are no cellphones, no faxes and no emails."
Dotson is a typical family man when he's not on the track. He is married with two grown children and two stepchildren.
"They like this," he said about his family's attitude toward his hobby. "But they probably think I'm crazy, too."
Dotson has not always been this "crazy." He started riding motorcycles sometime around 1980 when he purchased a Yamaha 400. The bike was worlds away from what he rides now.
"I'd say I would have been lucky if I could get it up to 80 or 90 mph," he said.
That first bike cost $800 to $900, he said. A conservative cost estimate for the 2008 Suzuki he currently takes to the racetrack is about $30,000.
"I crashed my first bike, as most people do," Dotson said.
He then purchased a Honda CX 500, which he began taking to the drag strip in the small town of Bean Blossom, Ind. There he would line up against Harley-Davidsons on the drag strip.
"I was just eating up those poor Harleys for lunch," he said.
However, he soon went into the military and didn't ride another motorcycle for about 14 years. Then he moved to West Virginia and decided to purchase a street motorcycle.
"It was just a little cruiser bike," he said.
He upgraded to a Suzuki 750 in 2007. He began taking this motorcycle to the drag strip at Kanawha Valley Motorsports Park.
"The problem was everyone was beating up on me," he said about racing the 750 cubic inch machine. "That's when I bought the hammer."
That would be the larger, more powerful Suzuki Hayabusa.
"You want to go to the next level and see what the machine will do," he said.
As for the future, Dotson is unsure exactly what he will be doing. He does want to get to 230 mph during the next racing event this April.
"I haven't set any goals beyond that," he said.