Indian Celebrates Burt Munro’s Legacy at Bonneville Salt Flats

Lee Munro 50th Anniversary Bert Munro
Lee Munro, Bert Munro’s great nephew, pilots the “Spirit of Munro” at the Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Week. Photo by Alfonse Palaima.

This past weekend, Indian Motorcycle kicked off the 69th annual Bonneville Speed Week by paying tribute to its iconic heritage and the 50th anniversary of Burt Munro’s historic land speed record in grand fashion. The tribute was highlighted by commemorative land speed runs by Munro’s great nephew Lee Munro on a modified 2017 Indian Scout appropriately named “Spirit of Munro.” Capping off the weekend, the team also held a moonlit screening of “The World’s Fastest Indian,” starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, for Speed Week campers.

“The World’s Fastest Indian” immortalized Burt Munro and the historic under-1000cc world record run of his 1920 Scout Streamliner in August of 1967. Prior to its special commemorative screening on the Bonneville campground, the film’s director Roger Donaldson and Burt’s son and grand nephew, John and Lee Munro, shared anecdotes about the making of the film, Burt Munro and the impact his achievements have had on Indian Motorcycle and motorcycling in general.

Lee Munro 50th Anniversary Bert Munro
Speed Week campers enjoy an evening screening of “The World’s Fastest Indian,” under the desert sky at Bonneville. Photo by Alfonse Palaima.

Indian was not just there to watch movies, however, it was there to race. Indian teamed up with Kiwi road racer Lee Munro, Burt Munro’s great nephew, to celebrate the 50th anniversary and recreate the historic run. A team of engineers worked nights and weekends to create and refine Lee’s “Spirit of Munro” Motorcycle, a modified and partially streamlined 2017 Scout. The team’s goal was to match Burt’s land speed record of 184 mph to pay tribute to and honor his run. They achieved their goal at El Mirage Dry Lakebed in California, qualifying for Bonneville, with a run at 186.681 mph. The best part? In doing so, they also secured an official land speed record in the MPS-G (Modified Partial Streamliner) 1,350cc class.

Lee Munro 50th Anniversary Bert Munro
Surface conditions and high winds hampered the team’s efforts to break 200 mph. Photo by Alfonse Palaima.

Entering Bonneville, the team’s new goal was to eclipse the 200 mph mark. However, Lee’s runs proved to be a battle against the elements. Lee attempted his first two runs on the five-mile short course, resulting in his top performance of the weekend at 191.28 mph and an unofficial run due to timer technical error. The following day, Lee and team made gearing changes and took the modified 2017 Indian Scout out on Bonneville’s nine-mile long course. Unfortunately, high winds and rough overall conditions hindered the motorcycle, resulting in 186.415 mph in his lone run of the day. On Monday, the team took another attempt on a newly routed long course, yet rough surface conditions forced Munro to exit his run before completing the timed section.

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Lee Munro 50th Anniversary Bert Munro
Lee Munro and his team pose with the original “World’s Fastest Indian.” Photo courtesy Indian Motorcycle.

“It was my greatest honor to represent Indian Motorcycle in such an incredible tribute to my great uncle on this historic 50th anniversary,” said Lee Munro. “We may not have had the results we were after, but piloting a modified Indian Scout on the same salt as my great Uncle Burt will forever be one of my most-cherished experiences. I’m looking forward to future runs and more success with my teammates and friends at Indian Motorcycle.”

Congratulations to Lee Munro and his team, and Indian Motorcycle, for their record-breaking El Mirage run and honoring the legacy of Bert Munro.

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