Wendover • When Teddy Tetzlaff clocked on unofficial time of 141.73 miles per hour in his Blitzen Benz to set a world land speed record in 1914, it established Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats as a place for speed.
The more than 500 speed enthusiasts who will descend on Bonneville beginning Saturday for the Southern California Timing Association's 65th annual Speed Week will carry on the heritage established by Salt Flats legends such as Britain's Sir Malcolm Campbell, Utah's Ab Jenkins and his Mormon Meteor, Craig Breedlove in his Spirt of America, Burt Munro of the "World's Fastest Indian" movie fame and Gary Gabelich in his Blue Flame rocket car.
Though this is the 100th year of land speed record trials on the Salt Flats, the SCTA will hold off its big celebration until next year.
"Maybe somebody is celebrating, but we aren't quite yet," said SCTA spokesperson JoAnn Carlson, who said the group is planning a number of major events starting in January of 2014 and will hold a big anniversary celebration next year.
That isn't keeping drivers from all over the world from coming out to the kickoff event of the Salt Flats land speed trial season that includes this event that runs through August 16. Other events include the BUB International Motorcycle Speed Trials on Aug. 24-29, the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association World of Speed on Sept. 7-10, The Cook Motorsports FIA-FIM Speed Trials on Sept. 12-18 and the SCTA's World Finals on Oct. 1-4.
Carlson said entries vary from the four-wheeled streamliners with potential speeds over 400 miles per hour to motorcycles with tiny engines that will struggle to reach 50 miles per hour. There are dozens of categories for land speed records. No prize money is awarded. Drivers hit the salt to test their driving and mechanical skills and to be placed in the record books.
Though the Salt Flats always draws a big contingent of out-of-state and out-of-country drivers in late summer and early fall, the big news this year may come from two veteran Utah outfits.
The Utah-based Vesco family will be bringing the legendary Turbinator which Don Vesco used to hit a 458.440 mile per hour clocking in 2001 out of retirement. Carlson said the family will also have it's Vesco Streamliner on the salt.
Bonnevile veterans Mike and Terry Nish and their family of Utah racers will also be back again with a potentially fast streamliner as well.
The top out-of-state team will be George Poteet and Ron Main and their Speed Demon. That streamliner is capable of going over 440 miles per hour and is always a threat to set a new mark.
Though a record 515 vehicles have preregistered, some of the top streamliners will be missing this year's event.
"A lot of people have canceled with broken motors," said Carlson. "They just weren't ready."
Carlson said there will be four courses used this year and salt conditions are excellent, though the pit area is slightly wet.
According to the SCTA, a record requires that the race vehicle pass over the same relative or physical miles two times and the average speed of the two passes exceed the current record.
If you go
O Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats is open to the public. Spectator passes are $15 per day or $40 for the week. Vendors sell food, drinks, T-shirts, souvenirs and sunglasses. To reach the Bonneville Speedway, take Exit 4 off Interstate 80 about 120 miles west of Salt Lake City. Drive 3.5 miles to the end of the pavement and then on to the salt itself. Racing begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.