Bonneville Speed Week 2017 – Going for Broke
The greatest tapestries woven communicate magnificent tales of legend and lore. Of such is the story of Bonneville Speed Week 2017, at the Salt Flats in Utah, and the racing that takes place here every year. Officiated by the Southern California Timing Association (S.C.T.A.) each race team, driver, spectator and volunteer is a woven part of the bigger picture. Every individual story; like the threads in a tapestry, lends its self to the overall story and without them, there is no tale to tell.
Without a doubt, the salt conditions of the 2017 race season were rough as a cob. Speaking with a long time member of the 200mph club he stated “This place is definitely not like it was 10-years ago.” Decades of mining have had an effect on the thickness of the salt; and in some places it’s non-existent prompting the creation of the Save the Salt Foundation. In spite of the challenges presented by uneven salt, broken suspension, and rattled teeth, race teams persevered and succeeded in making records in their respective classes.
One such Cinderella success story would be the Montana Dodge Boys. The fellas set a record in their vintage 1928 Dodge Roadster powered by the original “Fast Four” engine. Their final time…a whopping 150.141 mph with a flathead four cylinder engine that came from the factory with only 44 horsepower. They’ve bumped it up a little since then.
Another success story would be the Husband and Wife team of the So-What Speed Shop. Setting records in previous years on various vehicles, this year was no different for the So-What team. They set a record of 157.502 in their Blown, Gas, Rear, Modified, Roadster.
Still another story, all the way from New Zealand, is Falkirk Salt Flats Team. Running a 650cc Triumph, and smashing the old 50mph record with a new speed of 101mph. Driver Neil McDonald was hoping to reach 130mph. Maybe next year!
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the salty 400-pound gorilla in the room. Who went the fastest? The short answer is our favorite character, gentlemen George Poteet in his Speed Demon streamliner; however there is a bit of a backstory to this. Saturday, August 12th the first day of racing at Bonneville Speed Week Danny Thompson and his Challenger II set a blistering one-way run of 435.735mph! This was serious enough speed to put the Challenger II into impound where it needed to back up the run the following morning making it official. The next morning just two miles into his run the Challenger II splintered one of its engines, ending any hopes of making it an official record, and ending the Challenger II’s racing for the rest of the week.
After a few days of racing the Speed Demon crew was unable to match or beat the Challenger II’s top speed. It looked like for the first time in seven years the coveted Hot Rod magazine trophy was not to go home with the Speed Demon. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Four days later George Poteet piloted the Speed Demon to 438.643mph, ensuring that the Hot Rod magazine trophy was going home with him again.
While the land speed racing was nonstop, there were plenty of other sights and sounds to take in. There were pre-war hot rods running around everywhere, salt caked in fender wells and axles. Each night, the action went from the salt bed to nearby Wendover where salty rods put on an after-dark show of their own. It’s one of our favorite Bonneville Speed Week traditions.
Bonneville Speed Week is a thousand different stories converging into one place and one moment. The results and vehicles are as varied as their drivers, but the goals are same: To go faster than the next guy. The Bonneville Salt Flats resemble a tapestry, if neglected and not properly taken care of, will certainly deteriorate over time. This year was tough on vehicles and racers. Only right action and time will tell if the deterioration has been halted.
We know for sure we will be back in 2018 to document the next iteration of SCTA Speed Week. To see who ran what and who set what records from Speed Week, bang it here.