Not as easy as it looks! Gary Rothwell wheelies his Suzuki Hyabusa to a top speed of 318.455kph.

Elvington, North Yorkshire - Motorcycle wheelies are considered hooliganistic behaviour by the general public, but bikers who are able to balance their machine on the back wheel are revered by their peers.

Of course there’s little point in learning such a craft without being able to compete against other similarly-skilled hooligans, which is where the Motorcycle Wheelie World championship comes in. The tenth edition of the annual event was held last weekend at the Elvington airfield in North Yorkshire, with riders from several countries competing for the fastest wheelie over a one-kilometre distance.

Beating participants from Finland, France, Holland, Ireland, Sweden, UK and USA, the UK’s Gary Rothwell scooped this year’s title by clocking 318.455km/h on his turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa at the end of his run. In the process he managed to beat last year’s winner, Egbert Van Popta from Holland, who clocked 315.118km/h, also aboard a Hayabusa turbo. Third place went to Paddy O’Sullivan from Ireland, who wheelied his turbocharged Suzuki GSX-R1000 to a top speed of 305.489km/h.

Van Popta’s 320.9km/h record from last year still stands, however.

MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT SOUNDS

Patrik Von Furstenhoff, the infamous “Ghost Rider” from Sweden whose illegal street antics were immortalised on a series of DVDs back in the early 2000s, was also expected to race. Holding an unofficial wheelie record of 344.4 km/h, he went to Elvington with a 346km/h target but was unfortunately sidelined by technical problems on his bike.

Wheelieing a bike at more than 300km/h is even more difficult than it sounds, as lifting the front wheel too high creates air pressure around the back wheel that could destabilise the motorcycle and end in a very messy heap. The front wheel needs to be lifted as low as possible, just high enough to ensure it doesn’t touch down accidentally during the run.

At the same event, a Top Speed race was also held where riders were allowed to keep both wheels on the ground, and this year’s winner was the UK’s Becci Ellis. Riding a Hayabusa turbo (what else), she maxed out at 417.692km/h before a sudden wind blast caused her to veer off the track, breaking an ankle in the resulting crash.

Apart from Hayabusas, the Top Speed event attracted some flamboyant motorised contraptions including a jet-powered shopping cart (88km/h), and a garden shed that clocked 113.9km/h. - Star Motoring

Follow me on Twitter @DenisDroppa