Going Further | Speedweek 2014
The very first form of motorsports, Land Speed Racing has its aim at just how fast can a vehicle go – and Speedweek is the largest gathering for pursuing that goal. Far different from the short acceleration of drag racing, land speed racing shoots in a straight line for miles at a time. It pushes the envelope of how quickly an engine, transmission, driveshaft, and wheels can move – seemingly defying what is possible. In very early days, people were afraid that speeds of 60mph could kill a person by mere velocity – today the wheel-driven, combustion engine land speed record stands at 462 mph (George Poteet in Speed Demon, 2012). The magnificence of sustaining a speed that high over a full mile may not hit you until you wrap your mind around the feat at hand. Physics are working against you - as speeds approach 200mph drag and friction become exponentially more difficult. Also dissipating the heat being created is a problem, as is fuel pressure and a slew of other issues – but I’m no physicist, and chances are neither are you…so let’s suffice it to say that it is crazy difficult! So why do hundreds of people gather on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the middle of August for Speedweek each year? They love cars, they love speed, they love the pursuit of that elusive goal. It takes a special sort of person to want to build a car meant to do what no other car before it has done or to strap themselves into a land-grazing rocket. As Speedweek 2014 is about to start, 540 vehicles have already pre-registered to race. Before you start thinking all of these are aimed for 400+ mph, let me clarify that there are hundreds of different classes and there’s a different record in each one of them. For some body/engine combos, 120 mph is considered success, others are shooting for a record over 200mph or 300 mph. My favorite thing, apart from becoming friends with fellow racers, is seeing the huge variety of wheeled creations. Vintage roadsters and lakesters are a huge contingency, but there are modern cars too. A Volvo, Fiat, Porsche, or Ferrari may run just after a Studebaker, Y-block-powered Ford, or completely original hand-formed creation. The team may have big money behind them or be a family on a shoestring budget. Millions or thousands, 150 or 400 mph – they’re all after one thing, going further. All of these factors, combined of course with the mysterious salt surface, combine to make Speedweek the unforgettable experience that it is. Once you've been to Bonneville, you get addicted (you may notice the rock of salt in my hand in my bio pic below!) – DrivingLine will be adding our fix to those stricken with salt fever by sharing stories from 2014 Speedweek all through August, like this one. Or you could also catch up with the previous land speed racing stories we've shared!