Bill Warner dies at 44; Motorcyclist set a world speed record

Bill Warner, who set the world record for fastest speed on a conventional motorcycle, died Sunday after losing control while again trying to top 300 mph at a former air base in northern Maine. He was 44.

The speed racer and Florida fish farmer was clocked at 285 mph before he lost control.

It was unclear how fast the motorcycle was traveling when it veered off a runway and crashed, according to Tim Kelly, race director for the Loring Timing Assn., which hosts the annual timed speed event at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine.

After the crash, Warner was conscious and talking but died about an hour and 15 minutes later at a hospital in Caribou, Maine, Kelly said.

The Limestone Police Department and Maine State Police were investigating the crash.

“No one will touch Bill’s achievements or be the type of racer he was. He was a personal friend, and the land-racing community is less for his loss,” Kelly said.

Riding his modified turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa, Warner previously reached 311 mph on the same course in 2011, using 1.5 miles of pavement to set the world land-speed record for a conventional motorcycle, according to the association.

On Sunday, Warner was trying to hit 300 mph using just one mile of pavement at the Maine Event, held annually on the runway at the base, which closed in 1994. About 400 spectators watched as Warner made several passes before he crashed.

The motorcycle he rode started out as a stock Suzuki, but nearly every part had been modified by Warner or replaced with a donated hot-rod alternative.

The bike was “built for speed and that’s what it did,” Warner told the Associated Press after he established the speed record on July 17, 2011.

“The fun of it was trying to stop that thing,” he said days after the record run.

“It skips and bounces and slides,” Warner said on a New York Times blog. “There’s so much weight transfer to the front that it takes most of the mile-long braking area to get it back down to a comfortable speed.”

He was born Feb. 11, 1969, in Little Falls, N.Y., to a couple who worked in a tea factory, according to a biography on Growing up, Warner was exposed to motorcycles at a young age by his father and regularly raced BMX bicycles against local children at a non-sanctioned track.

After studying marine biology at the University of Tampa he eventually moved to Wimauma, Fla., where he raised tropical fish. He was unmarried and had no children, Kelly said.

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