Blind Speed Kawasaki

Blind motorcycle rider, Ben Felten and his Blind Speed Kawasaki team are returning to the salt at Lake Gairdner, South Australia in March 2020 to attempt to average 300kph over a measured mile to break his existing speed record for a motorcycle ridden blindfolded.

Felten, from the Blue Mountains in NSW, lost his sight after a successful career in road and drag racing. He was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa when he was 15 and gradually lost his sight to be totally blind by age 37.  Determined not to let his lack of vision hold him back, Felten pushed himself to succeed in sports as diverse as Blind Cricket and  Para-Rowing before deciding at age 47 to return back to motorcycling.

His first attempt nearly ended in disaster when he ran off the runway on a Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa at Temora Aerodrome in high wind, narrowly missing a parked car and perimeter fence. He achieved an unofficial speed of 219kph. He said the thrill of the ride spurred him on to do even better. He also decided that airfields are not the place for blind riders.

The speed attempt requires a chase rider to give directions by radio but Felten has to put incredible faith in his navigator, Kevin Magee  and communications technician Paul Simpson.  He met Magee legendary Australian Superbike and GP racer through Motorcycling NSW and the pair bonded straight away. Magee’s mother had spent much of her life as a volunteer for Guide Dogs Victoria and that connection helped bond the team.

At first knocked back by the Dry Lakes Racers Australia (DLRA) organizing committee, he attended the 2016 Speed Week event and convinced the powers that be to allow him to do a demonstration ride. Described later as like a scene from The World’s Fastest Indian, officials followed Felten and Magee in their four wheel drives, but the pair left them in their wake. DLRA was so impressed they invited the team back for Speed Week 2017.

Felten is the first blind Australian to gain a motorcycle racing license and blind rider to compete at the DLRA  event. In his first attempt on the salt in 2017 Felten missed the record by 1kph when he averaged 264kph on a stock Yamaha YZF R1M.

The 2018 event was a huge success. With Magee and Simpson along once again, Felten claimed the world record aboard his Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R when he reached a two-way average timed mile of 266.716kph (165.730mph) at the FIM sanctioned World Speed Trials Australia event. In doing so he improved Englishman Billy Baxter’s fifteen-year old Guinness World Record of 265.33kph speed recorded on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX12R.

The team will be returning to the salt lake in remote outback South Australia in March as part of DLRA Speed Week event followed by the invitational FIM/FIA sanctioned World Speed Trials Australia event.

2020 sees a full-on attack on the record with support from Kawasaki Motors Australia. BCPerformance in Smithfield, NSW, who manage the Kawasaki superbike team are modifying Felten’s own 2018 Kawasaki Ninja ZX10R for Magee while Felten will ride Bryan Staring’s 2019 Kawasaki Ninja ZX10RR Superbike. Felten is confident they will achieve their goal but admitted that to average 300kph they will need the full performance of the Kawasaki machines and will hit a maximum of close to 320kph at times.