BONNEVILLE SPEED WEEK
Bonneville is, we suspect, a name you’re familiar with. In this case we’re talking salt flats, specifically the vast expanse of them in north-west Utah and home to the Bonneville Speedway that has become synonymous with land speed record attempts on both two wheels and four. Speed trials are still held at Bonneville throughout the summer, but the big annual draw is Speed Week, run by the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA). If you’ve always fancied giving Speed Week a go then fill your boots, but be warned, this is no Run What Ya Brung at Santa Pod. The SCTA runs a tight ship and the Salt Flats aren’t exactly hospitable.
“Bonneville is about as hostile as it gets,” says John. “There isn’t anything other than your pit, the race course itself, a lot of of salt and an incredible amount of heat – it just eats into you. Nothing cools down while you’re there, you run your engine and it’s still as hot an hour later when you put the bike away.
But while the location can’t be described as friendly, the organisers push the boat out to welcome competitors. “The SCTA are the most helpful and organised bunch of people I’ve ever come across,” continues John. “We could not have asked for a better reception. They run a very tight event but it’s run traditionally. There are no big screens, the only electronics is the timing itself. You even have to buy a CB radio for your crew vehicle to find out what time you’ve got because nothing is posted anywhere. It’s run almost archaically but brilliantly, and the scale it’s on is immense. You can’t ride your bike anywhere but on the course, so you have to transport it around all the time, from courses to pit to timing. It’s not uncommon for your crew vehicle to do 100 miles in a day.
“You have to take everything with you and bring it all back to the hotel each night. We did most of the work on the bike in the hotel car park. Your baseline temperature is about 105 degrees, 110 outside, so I worked on the bike through the night, when it was 75.
The SCTA do a thing called ‘rookie orientation’, which helps you through all the processes. We corresponded a lot with them beforehand to ensure our bike would pass. Your bible is the rulebook – ‘Rules and records, dry lake speed trials’. There are no grey areas with the tech inspection. We flew through, but if you don’t pass you don’t race.” scta-bni.org
Cal Rayborn set a 265.492mph record in 1970 with this 1458cc H-D Sportster streamliner