Wednesday, March 6, 2013

World of Speed: Part III

After the initial shock of being at THE Bonneville Speedway you get acclimated pretty quickly.  It helps that almost everyone is so dang nice - even the folks who are having a really bad day.
 Bad, like they spent a year preparing for this and now their car is pissing parts and oil all over the salt.  That's bad.
Not that everyone at Bonneville is St. Salt of the Earth... there are a few grumps of course - it wouldn't be earth if there weren't a few.  But even the cranks seem less cranky... like they're skeptical of you, but you are all the way out here so you can't be all bad.  Or maybe everyone is just so stoked to be there that they are all on their best behavior.  I'm probably overthinking all this.
One difference between Speed Week and World of Speed was the strong Volkswagen presence at WoS.  Someone told me that the VW folks go for the September event because of the cooler temperatures... makes sense to me.   No matter what Rommel may have said of his North African Kubelwagens, mid-20th century German aircooled technology just wasn't designed for 116 degree summers.    I cut my teeth on split-window VW busses and finally gave up on them after cooking motors in two of them.  The VW contingent here was a surprising mix of busses, bugs and a Karmann Ghia.  They may not have been going as fast as the small block Chevys, but for a four cylinder that hasn't changed much since Truman was president I thought they did pretty good.
Davide was running around like a kid on Christmas.  His camera battery had given up just after he got to the US and we'd spent several days trying to find a replacement - a surprisingly difficult task given that he had a camera that is easily available in the states.  We finally got one a couple of days before we left, and lucky for that because I think he'd have had an embolism if he'd gone to the salt without a good camera. I'm waiting for some of his Bonneville pics to show up on his blog - nothing so far.
He and Karin were so giddy to be there that people were immediately taken with them - especially the German salt addict we met while he was shooting pics of a hopped up eighties sedan.  I can't remember his name, but he turned out to be something of a salt flats legend: an engineer who designs fuselage for modern land speed record vehicles - Davide recognized one of the projects he'd recently worked on.  He works in Kassel, Germany, but you could say he lives in Bonneville... he comes out for both Speed Week and World of Speed every year - and has for over 20 years.  That's him in the orange vest.
After a few hours we headed down to the pits - a line of cars, tarps and trailers that runs parallel to the long track.  In full flush the pits can go on for a couple of miles, but they were only about 1000 yards long this time out. We ran into the guys who'd dumped their oil in the lineup.  Hard to believe, but underneath all that bodywork  was a heavily modified Fiat, so Davide was stoked to chat with them about their experiences.  Despite the seeming disaster, the team was in good spirits - they're running about 250 miles per hour, a fact that made Davide and I ask them to repeat themselves 'cause we were sure we heard them wrong.  Guess they weren't having such a bad day after all.
The skies were getting darker by the minute, and just as we reached the end of the pits we felt a few drops of rain.  It spattered lightly for a minute or two and then it just dumped.  By the time we'd gotten back to where we parked the truck there was an inch of water on the salt.  World of Speed was over.
Not much to do.  It was only about 2 o'clock (Mountain Time)... I did the math and figured out that if we hustled, we could get back to Sac that night. Davide and Karin were up for a try so we grabbed a quick bite in Wendover, stopped by the Nugget to look at the forlorn display of the Eelco Wee Wee Eel Streamliner and then hit the road.
Twelve hours and 557 miles later we pulled up to my house, tired, sweaty and salty - and totally stoked.  What a weekend!


d a v i d e said...

The german bloke worked on none less than the thrust SSC itself.
Now that's one guy whose advice I would take at Bonneville. The german accent only adding to the early NASA engineers allure.

Pictures will come one day or the other. I'm just working too much and don't have time for the usual love I put in my posts. I might end up adding them soon thou.

d a v i d e said...

Tim, I finally had the time to edit and select my shots of that fantastic day.
Please find them on my blog and feel free to use them if you please.