As a kid one of my favorite movies was the epic film Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston. The chariot race in the movie was about as action packed as a bull in a china shop. One thing about the movie that always seemed to perplex me was the part after Ben-Hur won the chariot race, he received a crown made of leaves. That's it? After all he endured all he won was a crown made of leaves? As a kid, I never understood that moment. I understand it now. He wasn't racing for money-his motives were different.
While modern racers competing at the Bonneville Salt Flats are not horsewhipping each other and racing side by side, as they did in ancient Rome, some similarities do exist. A strong-willed personality, a vision, a vehicle, and a dedicated race team aren't any different than the ancient charioteers. Bonneville racers are not competing for silver cups or cash sponsorships from soda companies, or hardware stores. The Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) wants racing on the salt flats to be about the experience of being there. Building and piloting a vehicle that will propel you past the timing clocks and into the record books is at the very core of what land speed racing is all about. The experience, participation, and possibility of receiving the coveted red hat that reads, "200 MPH CLUB" is akin to that crown of leaves.
Last year saw a record amount of entrants on the salt. Perhaps the movie The Worlds Fastest Indian served as an inspiration for many racers to get out there and see what they are made of. There were 330 vehicles and 103 bikes, with a combined total of 2,018 timed runs during one week.
One of the race teams we paid close attention to this year was the So-Cal Speed Shop and GM Performance Division team. GM and So-Cal partnered and built a couple of fast vehicles to test on the salt. GM and So-Cal set three world speed records that week, including the first-ever Bonneville record using E85 ethanol.
This "Holy Hugger Orange" '69 Camaro is owned and operated by Dale Williams from Wyoming. Perhaps the most intriguing piece of news from the salt this year was from Al Oppenheiser, the director of the GM Performance division. Oppenheiser had a hand in the rebirth of the new Chevy Camaro, and during a conversation with Al we asked if GM will have the new Camaro running like a scalded ape out on the salt. According to Al, if he has anything to say about it, yes, there will be a new Camaro on the salt flats. We can only hope that the powers that be at GM will see the success of its Performance Division on the salt, and give Al and his team the green light for a salt flats version of the 2009 Camaro. Without a doubt Super Chevy we'll be there for that event. If you're interested in attending Bonneville one year or even racing, checkout the official SCTA Web site www.scta-bni.org, if you want to see more completely random Bonneville photos, take a look at the Super Chevy Web site www.superchevy.com. See you on the salt in 2007 and beyond.