On Saturday afternoon, State Patrol pilot Al Loney was flying near Wabasha, in southeastern Minnesota on the Wisconsin border, watching two motorcyclists racing along U.S. Highway 61.
When one of the riders shot forward, Loney was ready with his stopwatch. He clicked it once when the motorcycle reached a white marker on the road and again a quarter-mile later. The watch read 4.39 seconds, which Loney calculated to be 205 mph.
“I was in total disbelief,” Loney told the St. Paul Pioneer Press for Tuesday’s editions. “I had to double-check my watch because in 27 years I’d never seen anything move that fast.”
Several law enforcement sources told the newspaper that, although no official records are kept, it was probably the fastest ticket ever written in the state.
After about three-quarters of a mile, the biker slowed to about 100 mph and let the other cycle catch up. By then Loney had radioed ahead to another state trooper, who pulled the two over soon afterward.
The State Patrol officer arrested the faster rider, 20-year-old Stillwater resident Samuel Armstrong Tilley, for reckless driving, driving without a motorcycle license and driving 140 miles per hour over the posted speed limit of 65 mph.
A search of speeding tickets written by state troopers, who patrol most of the state’s highways, between 1990 and February 2004 shows the next fastest ticket was for 150 mph in 1994 in Lake of the Woods County.
Tilley did not return calls from the newspaper to his home Monday. A working number for him could not immediately be found by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Only a handful of exotic sports cars can reach 200 mph, but many high-performance motorcycles can top 175 mph. With minor modifications, they can hit 200 mph. Tilley was riding a Honda 1000, Loney said.
Kathy Swanson of the state Office of Traffic Safety said unless Tilley was wearing the kind of protective gear professional motorcycle racers wear, he was courting death at 200 mph.
“I’m not entirely sure what would happen if you crashed at 200 miles per hour,” Swanson said. “But it wouldn’t be pretty, that’s for sure.”