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Man vs. Machine: One Man's Need for Speed

vintage_hammer_land_speed_racing_feature Land Speed Racing is definitely not a spectator sport. In order to attempt to set a speed record, you first have to be hard-core into going fast. Then you need to be willing to endure some very extreme elements, as you'll find no cushy paddocks in this sport. Did I mention also having balls that clank? Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_04 While only a select few are crazy enough to attempt breaking speed records, people have had a love for this style-racing going back as far as the 1900’s. If it has wheels and some sort of engine, someone is in their shop figuring out ways to make it faster and more efficient. Of the people who build, support and cheer on these attempts, some are even crazy enough to get in the vehicles and drive them - pushing the limits of our minds and machines. Which brings me to Fabian Valdez and the Vintage Hammer team. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_15 When I first contacted Fabian and told him my project, he jokingly said that the machine had already won. However I find it hard to believe that when he gets in his rear-engine roadster at the start line, taming the butterflies that consume his belly before he runs, that he isn't giving the machine a run for its money.  He is no stranger to going fast, as a member of the elite 200mph Club he has pushed the envelope and gone speeds most of us have only felt from 10,000 feet in the sky. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_03 Fabian has been pursing speed records for 16 years now, along with his friends and family.  He started out by pitting for a Camaro in '97, and eventually ended up driving it. Being the hot-rodder that he is, he wanted to do something a little more traditional. After acquiring and building a few other cars, he decided to build the car you see pictured here. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_11 Having learnt quite a bit from his past rear-engine roadster and a streamliner he'd rehabbed, Fabian made quick work of laying out goals and buying metal for the new car - this was July of 2009. By Speedweek in August, a mere 5 weeks later, Fabian had gotten the car together and was ready to race - along with plenty of help from life-long friends and family (Tom and Diana Branch, Jeff Bachar, Rene Lugo, Jose Soriano, Jake Hummel). While the car had no belly pan or hood, it succeeded at reaching 185mph during its first pass. This was the shakedown for what has come to be. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_07 AS of today, Fabian and friends are still at it. May 18, 2013 marks the beginning of the season for land speed racing at El Mirage dry lake in the high California desert. Over a hundred racecars and a handful of spectators gather to watch some of the worlds fastest go by in an attempt to set land speed records as sanctioned by SCTA. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_20 El Mirage is a hot, windy, and dusty dry lakebed in the middle of nowhere. The long winter off-season months left some racers and crews looking for odds and ends they'd packed away the previous year in their garages...but the Vintage Hammer crew had their stuff together. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_09 It was time to get dirty! A final tune and inspection was all the Vintage Hammer needed. Experiencing a slight hitch in the car's giddy-up, they'd changed ignition components from the previous year to a magneto, made a small delay for the team. After a bit of tuning and beating heads, the car was ready to race by Sunday with a Nitro fuel mix in it's 300ci small block Chevy. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_23 All the work getting a car like this racing isn't even work with these guys. Friends for years and always just having a great time, they just step in and get to work when serious stuff needs to be done.  During this season-opener weekend, the car broke out on its first run at 187 mph. The team switched to a higher nitro mix along with a fresh tune and were up to 198 mph by the end of the day - knocking on the 217 record they are chasing. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_21 Land speed racing really takes a serious drive and passion in order to do - but for those who are out competing year after year, they're also having the time of their lives. If you think you might want to go really fast, or are ready to catch speed fever, come on out. Just be careful, because as we said, "it's not a spectator sport". You won't merely be watching for long. Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_27 -Tim Sutton El Mirage and Bonneville Event Schedule: Vintage Hammer Garage: Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_16 Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_17 Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_18 Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_14 Vintage_Hammer_Land_Speed_Racing_12 Continue Reading in the "Man vs. Machine" monthly series:

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