Silver State Classic Challenge
The Silver State Classic Challenge is an authorized Open Road Racing event that is run on a 90 mi (140 km) stretch of State Route 318, which is closed for the occasion. The event has been run since 1988, and was the venue for the highest speed achieved on a public highway, when Charles "Chuck" Shafer and Gary Bockman averaged 207.7801 mph (334.3897 km/h) in May 2000, in a Chrysler LeBaron ARCA race car. Although high speed race cars receive much of the publicity, the majority of participants take part in mainstream street cars at average speeds ranging from 95 to 150 mph (153 to 240 km/h). These cars run the gamut from sports cars like Corvettes and Mustangs to sedans like Infiniti G35s, Mercedes wagons, and even Saturns.
The event was first run on September 25, 1988, primarily as a showcase for vintage cars. With the assistance of the White Pine Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Department of Transportation, a 90 mi (140 km) stretch of State Route 318 was closed for the day, and approximately fifty cars took part. The following year, a new record of 197.99 mph (318.63 km/h) was set by a 19 year old driver named R J Gottlieb, driving a race-prepared big-block powered 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28. This run was well documented in a Hot Rod magazine article that year. In the years that followed, the organization became increasingly professional, with rules for safety, car preparation and driver experience becoming more stringent.
An additional event has been run each May since 1991, called the Nevada Open Road Challenge. This follows the same format and rules as the Silver State Classic Challenge, but cooler weather can lead to higher speeds for the fastest cars.
Rules and Speed Classes
Drivers and optional navigators compete to set a specified average speed ("Target Speed") over the 90-mile (140 km) course. The start and finish time for each car is recorded against a GPS clock, and the average speed is calculated from the elapsed time. In each speed class, the winners are driver and navigator to achieve the speed closest to their target speed.
Currently there are four main classes, in which cars can achieve target speeds between 95 and 180 mph (153 and 290 km/h). The classes specify safety equipment levels required for cars, drivers and navigators, and a maximum "Tech Speed", which may never be exceeded. Radar traps are hidden along the course to enforce this rule. There is also an Unlimited Class, in which drivers compete to set the fastest possible time over the course.
- Touring Class (Speed classes: 95, 100, 105, 110 mph)
- Stock street cars with regular 3-point seatbelts may be run in this class. A hand held fire extinguisher must be fitted, while gloves and Snell approved motorsports helmets must be worn by drivers and navigators. First-time drivers must run in this class unless they have appropriate motorsports experience. At no time may the car exceed the Tech Speed of 124 mph (200 km/h).
- Grand Touring Class (Speed classes: 115, 120, 125 mph)
- In addition to a handheld fire extinguisher, gloves and Snell helmets, the car must be fitted with 5-point or 6-point harnesses and (from 2007) window nets or arm restraints for the driver and navigator (if present). Open cars must have a rollbar fitted. At no time may the car exceed the Tech Speed of 140 mph (230 km/h).
- Grand Sport Class (Speed classes: 130, 135, 140, 145, 150 mph)
- In addition to the above equipment, all cars must be fitted with a rollbar or equivalent roll-over protection. Drivers and navigators must wear fireproof racing suits. At no time may the car exceed the Tech Speed of 165 mph (266 km/h).
- Super Sport Class (Speed classes: 160, 170, 180 mph, and Unlimited)
- In this class, specialist race cars are necessary. A full roll cage, fuel cell and onboard plumbed fire extinguisher are required. Cars in the 160 and 170 mph (260 and 270 km/h) speed classes may not exceed the Tech Speed of 180 mph (290 km/h) at any time. Cars in the 180 mph (290 km/h) and Unlimited classes have no specified maximum speed.
Over the weekend, there are also two drag events on a local stretch of closed-off highway. This is an unusual event, in that the 6,400 ft (2,000 m) altitude of Ely significantly reduces engine power, so the results are slower than similar events at lower altitude.
On Friday, the Z1Z/Z2Z challenge is held. In this event, competitors attempt to accelerate from a standstill to 100 mph (160 km/h) ("Z1Z" held each May) or 200 mph (320 km/h) ("Z2Z" held each September) and brake to a halt as quickly as possible. Classes are determined by engine size and engine aspiration method. In May 2007, the fastest car took 16.1 seconds and 1,289 ft (393 m) to reach 100 mph (160 km/h) and stop again.
On Saturday, the High Noon Shootout takes place. This is a pure speed event, in which Touring and Grand Touring cars have half a mile to accelerate to the highest possible speed, while Grand Sports cars and above have a one mile (1.6 km) straight. In May 2007, a new record of 202 mph (325 km/h) was set by a modified Dodge Viper. However, the car was severely damaged in an incident on a subsequent run. In September 2007, the record was raised once again to 212 mph (341 km/h) by Mike Reichen driving a highly modified 1994 Evo II.
There were two fatalities in the first decade of the Silver State Classic Challenge. In recent years, much more stringent safety rules have been enforced, with a particularly strong emphasis on the speed and load capacity of the tires. During 2003, a number of drivers questioned the effectiveness of the radio system used by course marshals to monitor cars and (if necessary) to call for medical assistance. This has been addressed through an improved radio communication system, including the loan of a basic 2-way radio to each competitor. Due to the lack of crash barriers, spectators are not permitted. The only way to watch the race is as one of the safety marshals who man every gate along the course.
The President and Chairman of the Silver State Classic Challenge, is Steve Waldman, who is also a regular participant in a Dodge Viper and other vehicles. Mr. Waldman was involved in the setting up of the Silver State Classic Challenge from the beginning. The Silver State Classic Challenge awards banquet and hotel sponsor was originally the Showboat Hotel & Casino, where Mr. Waldman was Vice-President of Marketing for the hotel chain. The Silver State Classic Challenge awards banquet and hotel sponsor is now the Sam's Town Hotel & Casino. The Silver State Classic Challenge has an appointed board of directors, as well as a number of corporate officers with responsibilities ranging from finance to rookie liaison.
One of the event's partipicants is the Japanese car magazine Option founder Daijiro Inada, a renowned figure in the import, and drifting scene. The video magazine spinoff, Video Option, recorded his attempts at the event in 1999 and from 2003 to 2006. Due to driver error and equipment problems, the 2004 run was the only one he has so far completed successfully. His current car, the Option Stream Z, is an unlimited category Nissan 350Z.
Big Red Camaro
"Big Red" was built in 1987 by RJ and Dan Gottlieb on a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro for open road racing. The original car was destroyed in an accident in the La Carrera road race as the chassis were unable to handle the high power output. The second car was designed and built by Bill Osborne with a spaceframe tube chassis. Big Red was retired to a car museum in Laughlin, Nevada in 1996, and was revived for racing again in 2004 with a complete overhaul and restoration of the entire car.
Option Stream Z
Since the inception of the Silver State Classic, a number of other Open Road Racing events have also started. The Big Bend Open Road Racing organization runs two races in West Texas each year: the eponymous Big Bend Open Road Race in April and the Road Runner event in October.
- Silver State reprint of Guinness Book of Records
- POV Magazine Feb 1999
- Overboost Industry Profile – Daijiro Inada
- Overboost car feature - Option Stream Z
- Big Red's history
- Big Bend Open Road Racing website