Two years ago, Bill Warner came to northern Maine and set a new land speed record for driving a motorcycle faster than any other human on the planet.
Warner was killed Sunday morning trying to set another world land speed record at the former Loring Air Force Base in the Aroostook County town of Limestone.
Race officials said that Warner, who lived in Wimauma, Fla., was clocked at 285 mph before he lost control of his motorcycle during “The Maine Event,” a racing competition hosted by the Loring Timing Association.
Limestone Police Chief Stacey J. Mahan confirmed in a news release that the 44-year-old Warner was trying to set a new speed record when he lost control and went off the runway.
Mahan said Warner was transported by ambulance to Cary Medical Center in Caribou, where he died around 11:15 a.m. Sunday. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
“Mr. Warner, a well known speed racer, appeared to be attempting to hit 300 mph within a one mile distance on the runway when something happened and the motorcycle came to rest on the east side of the runway” after crashing and flying through the air, Mahan said.
According to the Loring Timing Association’s website, the runway at the former Air Force base is 300 feet wide and 14,200 feet long, putting it among the longest runways in the world.
The Loring Timing Association has been hosting motorcycle racing events for the past five years on the property, which is leased from the Loring Redevelopment Authority.
Race Director Tim Kelly of Brunswick said the concrete and asphalt runway — the longest racetrack of its type at more than 2½ miles — is considered one of the best tracks in the world. The surface is smooth and unlike salt flats provides a better grip for racers.
“Bill was the first person to ever go over 300 mph on a sit-up bike,” Kelly said.
Warner set that record at Loring in 2011 when he was clocked at 311 mph — while racing over a distance of 1.5 miles.
On Sunday morning, Warner was trying to exceed the 300 mph mark over a much shorter distance — one mile.
Kelly said Warner had made a couple of runs before the accident. On his last attempt, he veered right and hit a runway light.
Witnesses told a WCSH-TV reporter, who attended the event, that Warner was hurled about 40 feet in the air before he landed.
Kelly said Warner was conscious and talking after the crash, which took place around 9:45 a.m. He died later at the hospital.
News of his death spread across the country and world, according to Joe Timney. The 63-year-old Timney, who has been racing motorcycles and cars since he was a teenager, said he had known Warner for years and spoke with him by telephone two or three times a week.
“The news (of his death) spread very quickly around the world. Literally, everyone’s eyes were on Bill this weekend,” said Timney, president of the East Coast Timing Association.
Timney said Warner was a legend in the land speed race community because of the leap in racing time that he made in 2011 in Maine, shattering a previous land speed of 264 mph set at the Bonneville Salt Flats in northernwestern Utah.
“Bill was a pioneer of land speed racing. To be able to go that much faster is remarkable,” said Timney, who lives in Townsend, Del.
Kelly said Warner was a marine biologist who raised tropical fish in Florida. He was not married and did not have any children.
“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 told The Associated Press.
Kelly said Warner was riding a modified turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa when he crashed.
“Land speed records are a dream of many, an obsession of some, and reality for a determined few. It is a quiet pursuit made by quiet men in garages on late nights and endless weekends,” the Loring Timing Association says on its website.
Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: