The need for speed: McHenry resident has set more than 60 land speed records since October
At nearly 200 mph, with the wind trying to blow him away and his neck in a spasm, Bull Valley resident and former McHenry County Board member Jeff Schwartz managed to break more than 60 land speed records with two different vehicles.
Schwartz -- who has raced professionally in off-road and drag racing and owns Schwartz Performance, a car building and manufacturing company out of Harvard -- said land speed racing was unfamiliar to him. That changed in October when he set out to Blytheville, Arkansas, to participate in an ECTA Motorsports event.
"I've done a lot of different forms of racing in my lifetime," he said. "But I had never done this before."
Schwartz started out doing motocross as a teenager, purchasing his first dirt bike when he was 16, he said. Over the years, he's raced cars and motorcycles on roadways and has done drag racing. In October, he added land speed racing to that list, attempting to break absolute speed records.
When he arrived in Arkansas, he said he had the idea that he could maybe set a couple records. The number went up in his head when he learned there were multiple classes that he'd be able to compete in with the same vehicle.
For the event, he brought a motorcycle, a 2018 Ducati 1299 Panigale R Final Edition, and a car, a 2007 Ferrari 12-cylinder 599 GTB Fiorano. He registered for as many classes as he could and set 63 land speed records, 30 on the motorcycle and 33 in the car.
The two-day event put him third all time in the amount of all-time records in the ECTA Motorsports' history by an individual, ECTA Motorsports owner Steve Strupp said. Schwartz didn't realize the level of success he had until they delivered him his certificates.
Strupp, who has owned the ECTA since 2018 and resides in Indiana, said Schwartz's accomplishment is unique in part because, in addition to the number of records set, Schwartz never had the intention of setting so many.
Adding to the feat, Schwartz did it with both a motorcycle and a car, and had no crew, Strupp said.
"It's pretty impressive," Strupp said. "It takes a lot of focus and determination to go back and forth between a bike and a car."
In total, he broke multiple speed records for the half-mile, one-mile and 2-kilometer with both his car and bike, Schwartz said.
Across each of the distances, he broke records for a variety of different vehicle classes. Schwartz said competitors could compete in their vehicle's respective class, as well as classes above their vehicle.
In total, he broke 30 records with his car across 12 different classes, and 33 with his bike across 11 different classes. His fastest speeds with car and bike included more than 150 and 171 mph at the half-mile distance, 178 and 193 mph at 1-mile distance, 185 and 197 mph at 2-kilometers distance, respectively, according to certificates he received from ECTA.
Once he saw the records, he said he was "shocked and could not believe this is happening."
"I did it in two days," he said. "Whereas most people have done this after a 10- or 20-year period. … I've been blessed with a lot of good luck in my life. I couldn't believe it."
The records weren't made without some challenges, Schwartz said. For one, the event took place on an airport runway, which was an unprepared surface.
Typically, drag strips are treated with compounds to create more traction, but in this case, the runway was just bare concrete.
Riding the motorcycle was a different challenge than he was used to, Schwartz said. The wind in particular put a lot of pressure on his legs and feet since "it's trying to blow you off the motorcycle."
The force of the wind put his neck into a giant muscle spasm on his first ride, he said. His helmet also made it tough to see where he was going. On another run, the wind pushed his foot off the peg and he couldn't put it back on until after the run was over.
"That kind of stuff is surprising," he said.
Schwartz said he doesn't have much fear when carrying out these feats, and the prospect of death during these types of races is a reality he's accepted.
"I've lived my whole life, like, 'When it's my time to go, it's my time to go,'" Schwartz said.
His daughter, Justina, who also described herself as an adrenaline junkie, feels the same way. As someone who races and does horse jumping, she understands the risks, but doesn't fear them.
As a result, she doesn't worry about her father. Her father breaking as many records as he did "sounds like something he would do," she said.
"We're doing what we love," she said. "We don't really focus on the risks. We focus on the reward."
Moving forward, Schwartz purchased new equipment to both help his vision and allow him to tuck his body more, which will create less wind resistance and help him go faster.
The aerodynamics that go into racing make it more complicated than just throttling your bike as hard as possible, he said. If one were to do just that, the bike would flip over at a certain speed.
"There's still a certain amount of skill involved," Schwartz said. "There's a number of different things that can happen."
Schwartz said he hopes he can break a few more records and move up to second all-time on the record-holder list. He also wants to break 200 mph, something he's done before but not with this club.
His next event will be at a seven-day off-road motorcycle rally in Hellas, Greece.
He's started working with a personal trainer to get his body in shape for that.
"That's my next adventure that I'm going to do," he said.