After he left school my friend Bruce travelled from England to travel around the States, and while driving across from the East Coast to the West, crossing Utah, he spotted several race cars on trailers travelling along Highway I-80. When he spotted a couple turning off and heading out onto the large expanse of salt he followed, and found himself at Bonneville Speed Week. Since he told me about that many years ago I have always wanted to come and see for myself. More recently I watched the movie “The World’s fastest Indian”, which tells the story of New Zealander Bert Munro, and his journey to Bonneville glory, and this merely fuelled my desire to come, and today I have finally made it.
We actually arrived yesterday, and saw a bit of racing, but really had no idea what was going on. After a night high in the mountains in Nevada at another small rest area the previous evening, we drove down into Wendover, just on the Nevada/Utah border, and refuelled, and found a great little information bureau, where I could access the internet and upload a couple of previous blogs and check email. Linda told us of the attractions that Wendover has to offer, and we went to take a look around. The salt lake is so big and flat that from a viewpoint above the town it is possible to view the curvature of the Earth, which is pretty amazing to see. Just out of town we also took a look at the airforce base museum where bomber crews trained for dropping the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombs that ended WWII. Also there was the plane that was used in the movie “Con Air”, which was fun to scramble around in.
Eventually we headed out to the flats and were allowed onto the salt without charge, as we had arrived so late in the afternoon, and watched a few vehicles rocket past the pits at high speed, and wandered around the Impound area, where potential record breakers were stored for the evening. To gain a record, a vehicle must first qualify to do so on one run, by going faster than the old record. The vehicle then goes into Impound, where it can be worked on for a period of up to four hours. The next morning a further hour’s work can be done, then the vehicle has to consolidate the record-breaking run with a second pass, the average of the two runs being taken. This makes records hard to beat, because as well as one-time speed, consistency and reliability is also required.
Last night we parked out on the salt along with perhaps another hundred RVs and campers, and watched “The World’s Fastest Indian” on the computer, and this morning were up very early to secure a fantastic front row parking spot at the start line. It is possible to sit in the RV and watch the amazing action.
The atmosphere is fantastic, and everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful, and many people have been very patient in answering my endless questions. The whole style of racing is much more laid-back than anything I have ever experienced, as each run is against the clock, rather than other vehicles, and starting speed and early acceleration is not too important. Top speed is all that counts here, and most people are here to try to beat personal bests.
One of the most exciting runs to see was 71 year old Connie on a huge motorcycle, who beat her own personal best of 211 mph by a significant margin, achieving 229 mph. Apparently her 82 year old boyfriend also rides the bike!
There are some absolutely incredible vehicles here, and just wandering around the start line listening to the engines fire up and the cars and bikes accelerate away is such a thrill.
Already I have started wondering how I might make it back here, and what sort of motorbike I would like to bring to have a go on. “Certainly, you should give it a go,” one guy that I chatted to encouraged me. “First step is to pick up a rule book to find out what you would need to do!” That’s excatly what I did. Maybe one day I will be back here to race something myself, if finances ever permit! In the meantime I am very happy to be here as a spectator.
Thanks to Susan for being my wonderful travelling companion on this goal. As always it is so much more fun to see things like this with someone else than to do so alone. And thanks also to all the people we have met here that have been so wonderfully friendly and helpful.