Bonneville Salt Flats - Fast Facts About the Fastest Place on Earth

Louise "LandSpeed" Ann Noeth
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Bonneville Salt Flats - Fast Facts About the Fastest Place on Earth

HOW IT STARTED

  • In 1914, "Terrible" Teddy Tetzlaff drove the Blitzen Benz to a world record speed, besting the 142-mph record, but the feat was unofficial due to paperwork and politics. Ab Jenkins drove solo for 24 hours, averaging 112 mph in 1932, only to be snubbed for the same reason.
  • The salt charm came when Sir Malcolm Campbell brought, at Jenkins's urging, the gargantuan Blue Bird-and proper officials-to nail the first plus-three (more than 300 mph) record at 301.1 mph in September 1935. Speedsters have been coming to Bonneville ever since.

NOTABLE FEMALE RECORD-SETTERS
Tricia (Kisner) Shaffer
2003: 317.4 mph, Grumpy Ole Men lakester

Tanis Hammond
2002: 304.5 mph, Number 77 lakester

Jeannie Pflum
2000: 302.2 mph, Number 77 lakester

Pam Curtis
2003: 287.8 mph, Nish streamliner

Betty Burkland
2003: 263.9 mph, Trackmaster competition coupe

SPEED WRINKLES
Joe Fontana, 82
2006: Ferguson Number 75 streamliner; 256.0 mph

Harold Johansen, 79
2007: 1929 Ford roadster; 109 mph

Earl Wooden, 73
2004: Number 65 streamliner; 364.8 mph

Ak Miller, 71
1991: Benham Crosley; 225.8 mph

Burt Munro, 68
1967: 1920 Indian motorcycle; 183.6 mph

FASTEST CONTEMPORARY CARS

Don Vesco, Turbinator458 mph
Tom Burkland, 411454 mph
Nolan White, {{{Spirit}}} of Autopower413 mph
Al Teague, Spirit of 76409 mph
Mike Nish, Royal Purple streamliner386 mph

WHAT GOES ON
Spectators watch two courses laid out in a V shape from the starting line. The short course has one timed mile for vehicles running less than 175 mph, and the long course has three timed miles for everything faster than 175 mph. Only one vehicle at a time is allowed to run on each course.

Land speed entrants run against open or existing records daily. Any run in excess of the record qualifies the vehicle for "impound." The next morning, all qualified impound vehicles race across their respective courses before any other vehicles. If the average of two runs exceeds the current record and the vehicle passes inspection, a new record is registered.

There are dozens of classes, but streamliners and lakesters are unique to the sport. Roadsters started it all, but now you can also see semi-tractors; 36-hp VW Beetles; diesel, electric, and even hydrogen-powered cars, bikes, and trucks.

Spectators are allowed on the starting line, along the staging lines, and in the pits. You can walk, but not drive vehicles, through the 2.5-mile-long pits. Golf carts, bicycles, and motorized bar stools are allowed.

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