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Records being set, despite less than ideal Salt Flat conditions

First Published      Last Updated Aug 16 2016 10:31 pm


Speed Week » After two-year layoff, event resumes with fast times and big crowds.

Bonneville Salt Flats • The sign on the Clark Haul racing truck summed up the feelings of many salt-starved land speed racing enthusiasts this week:

"Inside this trailer is a fatal disease of which there is no cure."

Those hooked on building fast cars and motorcycles and testing them on the famous course came from all over the world to feed their speed addictions in the 68th annual Bonneville Nationals Speed Week.

After a two-year break due to poor salt and wet conditions on the famous raceway, interest is high. An estimated 5,000 spectators drove on to the salt Saturday and Sunday and there was a good crowd Tuesday. Close to 500 cars and motorcycles registered.




The event — the first of several scheduled from now until October if salt conditions hold up — runs through Friday.

According to Dan Warner, chief record official for the sponsoring Southern California Timing Association, about 45 car records and another 45 motorcycle records had been set as of mid-day Tuesday.

Veteran racer George Poteet, driver of the Speed Demon, held the fastest time this week. He hit a top speed of 442 miles per hour Sunday, with an average of 416.5, to set the B Blown Fuel Streamliner record.

Another racing star, Danny Thompson, broke the Double A Fuel Streamliner record over the weekend. His record time was 406.7 miles per hour.

Veteran Utah racing teams led by Mike Nish and Rick Vesco had some test runs in their vehicles but were still trying to work out some bugs after a two-year layoff.

Nish said that salt conditions weren't great for racing. Officials have had to move the long courses slightly every night. There is about one inch of good salt over mud.

"The biggest thing is retraining all of our crew," said Nish, referring to the two-year break from racing. "They are learning what to do and when to do it."

Vesco has been working on the Turbinator streamliner for over two years as his garage in Rockville to prepare for this event but he said there were still some issues with it.

The famed Turbinator had a 290-mile per hour test run this week to see how its new computerized throttle control system was working. The Vesco crew is hoping to break its own record of 423 miles per hour before the week is over.

As is always the case during Speed Week, racers young and old and from all over the world converge on the salt flats with the only goal of getting their name in the record books.

Angus Fogg, crew chief and backup driver for CMR, said his crew shipped two cars from New Zealand and then drove a trailer from Los Angeles to Wendover for this event.

He called 70-year-old head driver Reg Cook "the world's fastest geriatric," a play on the story of New Zealand motorcyclist Burt Munro, whose true story was chronicled in the movie "The World's Fastest Indian."

While still working on a streamliner, the New Zealand team earned a competition coupe record in their Nissan NX. They ran averages of 190.574 and 192.55 miles per hour on the record run, with a top speed of 195.64 miles per hour.

The Bidalot Expresso team shipped their motorcycle from France after being stymied trying to race in 2014 and 2015. It set the 100cc modified gas motorcycle record by going 101.8 miles per hour. That broke a record that had held since 2009.

"We saw the Salt Flats years ago in a movie called "On Any Sunday" and saw the television car commercials," said Philippe Danh, who came here with bike builder Philippe Berte, driver Arnoud Senegon, and engine builder Arnaud Bidalot. "We used to drag race together in France and have stayed friends ever since."

Spectators such as Greg Simon of Hungary fulfilled their bucket list dream of coming to Speed Week. He drove a 1985 Harley Davidson motorcycle from South Carolina to watch the event.

One of the youngest drivers was 18-year-old Californian Kaylin Stewart, who joined the 200-mph club with a speed of 224.212. The rookie drove what sponsor Jesel Racing calls "the world's fastest pickup truck."

The event ends Friday. Spectators are welcome, with a $20 per person charge. Active military members are free.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter @tribtomwharton

 

AT A GLANCE

Bonneville Salt Flats racing schedule

Speed Week » Wednesday through Friday

Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials » Aug. 27-Sept. 1

Utah Salt Flats Racing Association World of Speed » Sept. 10-13

Mime Cook’s Bonneville Shootout » Sept. 15-20

Southern California Timing Association World Finals » Sept. 27-30

For Speed Week information, log on to www.scta-bni.org.


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