Bonneville Speedway

Coordinates: 40°45′45″N 113°53′44″W / 40.76250°N 113.89556°W / 40.76250; -113.89556
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Bonneville Salt Flats Race Track
Phoenix diesel truck running at Bonneville, August 2003
Bonneville Speedway is located in Utah
Bonneville Speedway
Bonneville Speedway is located in the United States
Bonneville Speedway
Nearest cityWendover, Utah
Coordinates40°45′45″N 113°53′44″W / 40.76250°N 113.89556°W / 40.76250; -113.89556
Area36,650 acres (14,830 ha)
NRHP reference No.75001826[1]
Added to NRHPMarch 16, 1984

Bonneville Speedway (also known as the Bonneville Salt Flats Race Track) is an area of the Bonneville Salt Flats northeast of Wendover, Utah, that is marked out for motor sports. It is particularly noted as the venue for numerous land speed records. The Bonneville Salt Flats Race Track is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1]

The salt flats were first used for motor sports in 1912, but did not become truly popular until the 1930s when Ab Jenkins and Sir Malcolm Campbell competed to set land speed records.

A reduction of available racing surface and salt thickness has led to the cancellation of events at Bonneville, such as Speed Week in 2014 and 2015.[2] Available racing surface is much reduced with just 2.5 miles (4.0 km) available[2] instead of the 9-mile (14 km) courses traditionally used for Speed Week.[3]

Track layouts[edit]

Salduro is a ghost town located on the south boundary of Bonneville Speedway, next to the Western Pacific Railroad. Salt Lake City newspapers ran an advertisement in 1914 for a special train to Salduro where the "fastest machines in the world will compete for the world's record on the famous salt beds, which afford the finest races in America. No dust." Salt Lake City mayor Samuel C. Park and Utah Governor William Spry attended.[4] A rest area on Interstate 80 was built on the former settlement, and a plaque there commemorates the land speed records.

Historically, the speedway was marked out by the Utah Department of Transportation at the start of each summer. Originally, two tracks were prepared; a 10-mile (16 km) long straightaway for speed trials and an oval or circular track for distance runs, which was typically between 10 and 12 miles (16 and 19 km) long depending on the condition of the salt surface.

Since at least the 1990s, track preparations have been the responsibility of the event organizers. Days or weeks in advance, the track preparers identify an area best suited for their track layouts and begin grading the tracks. Surveyors are brought in to survey the timing trap distances. A day before racing begins, the track markers are added.

Originally, the straightaway was marked with a broad black line down its center. This was eventually changed to lines down either side, as the center line wore out too quickly. As the costs for painting the lines has gone up, organizations have switched to flags and cones as track markers. The last event to use black lines was Speed Week, August 2009.[5]

The number of tracks and the timed sections for each track are set according to what is most beneficial for each event. Large public meets such as Speed Week run as many as four tracks with several timed miles, usually starting with the second mile and running to the fifth mile. Smaller meets that typically only run world record attempts will utilize a single track, with one timed mile and one timed kilometer in the middle of the track. Additional marks and cones indicate the end of the track and the position of timing equipment.

Deteriorating track conditions[edit]

BLM interpretive sign at the Bonneville Salt Flats Rest Area on westbound Interstate 80, September 2015

The annual Speed Week was cancelled in both 2014 and 2015, as were many land-speed racing events, due to deteriorating track conditions.[2][3] Heavy rains caused a layer of mud from surrounding mountains to flow onto the flats, covering approximately 6 mi (9.7 km) of the track. Although another section of the flats would normally be used, nearby salt mining operations had reduced the size of the alternative track.[3]

The depth of the salt crust at Bonneville has also been decreasing, possibly leaching into a saltwater aquifer. Measured at as much at 3 ft (0.91 m) in the 1940s and 50s, it has been reduced to just 2 in (0.051 m) in 2015.

Though recent studies have been made (since 1960), the causes of this deterioration are not clear, although the evidence points toward both local climatic changes and salt mining. Some strategies were devised to revert the decreasing salt surface, such as pumping back salt, though this had no effect.[3]

Events and meetings[edit]

In August, the Southern California Timing Association[6] and Bonneville Nationals Inc.[7] organize Speed Week, the largest meet of the year, which attracts several hundred drivers who compete to set highest speed in a range of categories. Bonneville Speed Week has been taking place since 1949.[8]

In late August, the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials are held.[9]

In September each year is the World of Speed, (similar to Speed Week) organized by the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association.[10] The USFRA also meet on the first Wednesday of each month throughout the summer.

In October, the Southern California Timing Association puts on World Finals, a scaled-down version of Speed Week. This event tends to have cooler weather and often drier salt that Speed Week the prior month. There are less spectators and it tends to draw serious racers, as this event is the last chance to break a land speed record and be in the SCTA record book for that year.

Each year, there are usually a few private meets that are not publicized scattered among the larger public meets.

Land speed records[edit]

Numerous land speed records in various vehicle categories and classes have been set on the Bonneville speed way. In 1960, Mickey Thompson became the first American to break the 400 miles per hour (640 km/h) barrier, hitting 406.60 miles per hour (654.36 km/h) and surpassing John Cobb's 1947 one-way Land speed record of 403 miles per hour (649 km/h). Other notable examples of Bonneville speed records include:

Gabelich's Blue Flame, December 2004
Dick Beith's Pepco Supercharged VW Lakester, August 1963
Year Driver Vehicle Speed mph Speed km/h Class (category) Notes
1935 Sir Malcolm Campbell Blue Bird 301.129 484.620 [data needed]
1947 Don Waite The Edelbrock Special 192 309 [data needed]
1954 George J Smith Harley-Davidson knucklehead 152.02 244.652 [data needed] Modified 91 ci knucklehead / alcohol
1963 Craig Breedlove Spirit of America 407.447 655.722 [data needed]
1963 Dick Beith Pepco 36 hp VW Lakester 129.68 208.700 K36 Unlimited Pepco supercharged 36 hp based engine in a „Lakester” style car fashioned from a WWII aircraft belly tank
1964 Art Arfons The Green Monster 434.022 664.694 [data needed]
1965 Craig Breedlove Spirit of America — Sonic 1 600.601 966.574 [data needed]
1967 Burt Munro Indian Scout V-Twin 184.037 296.179 under 1,000 cc
1970 Gary Gabelich Blue Flame 622.407 1001.67 [data needed]
1971 Warner Riley Harley-Davidson Sportster 206.544 332.400 APS-AF 2000 S&S Modified 96 ci Sportster/nitromethane
1985 Dan Kinsey Tenacious Streamliner 276.51 444.999 S-F 2000 S&S Modified 114 ci shovelhead/nitromethane
1991 Dan Kinsey Tramp III Harley-Davidson 226.148 363.949 APS-AF 2000 S&S Modified 114 ci Evolution big twin/nitromethane
2001 Don Vesco Vesco Turbinator — Turbine Engine 458.443 737.395 [data needed]
2004 R. Schroer Buckeye Bullet — Electric Vehicle 314.958 524.930 [data needed]
2006 Andy Green JCB Dieselmax — Diesel Streamliner 350.092 563.418 FIA A-III-13 World's Fastest Diesel
2006 Laura Klock Harley-Davidson Road Glide 143.659 231.197 MPS-PF 3000 "World's Fastest Bagger"[11]
2007 Erika Cobb Buell Blast 107 172.2 MPS-PG 500 [11]
2007 Laura Klock Harley-Davidson Road Glide 146.297 235.442 MPS-PF 3000 "World's Fastest Bagger"[11]
2008 Karlee Cobb Buell Blast 109.867 176.814 MPS-PG 500 Youngest person in the world at the time the record was set to hold a land speed record[11]
2009 Erika Cobb Buell XB9 Firebolt 126.383 203.394 P-PP 1000 [11]
2009 Karlee Cobb Buell Blast 115 185.075 MPS-PG 500 [11]
2009 Laura Klock Victory Vision 122 196.34 MP-2000 [11]
2009 Michelle Mielke Yamaha Warrior 143.154 230.384 M-P-2000 [11]
2009 Michelle Mielke Yamaha Warrior 143.725 231.303 MPS-P 2000 [11]
2010 Erika Cobb Buell 136.476 219.637 P-PP 1000 [11]
2010 Erika Cobb Harley-Davidson Dyna with ProCharger 143.542 231.008 M-PBF 1650 [11]
2010 Erika Cobb Harley-Davidson Dyna with ProCharger 141 226.918 M-BF 1650 [11]
2010 Karlee Cobb Harley-Davidson Dyna with ProCharger 151.754 244.224 M-BG 1650 [11]
2010 Chris Degen Harley-Davidson 127.571 205.306 P-PP 1350 [11]
2010 Charles Nearburg Spirit of Rett 414.316 666.776 [data needed]
2011 Erika Cobb Harley-Davidson Dyna-Mite 143.542 231.008 M-P-BF 1650 [11]
2011 Karlee Cobb Harley-Davidson Dyna-Mite 151.754 244.224 M-BG 1650 [11]
2012 Jeff Bailey 1994 Harley-Davison Buell S2 226.148 322.797 APS-AF 3000 S&S 160 ci Prostock engine/gasoline
2012 Brian Klock Harley-Davidson Dyna-Mite 154 247.839 MP-BG 1650 [11]
2012 Brandon Nozaki Miller 2012 Zero Motorcycles S ZF6 — Lightweight (under 150 kg) Unfaired Electric Motorcycle 102.281 164.605 First production electric motorcycle to break 100 mph
2016 Roger Schroer Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3 341.4 549.43 FIA A-VIII-8 Fastest electric vehicle
2016 Bob Sirna Mercedes-Benz 300 SL 190.759 306.997 FIA A-VIII-8 3L Sport cars[12]
2018 Shigeru Yamashita Kawasaki Ninja H2 209.442 337.06 P-PB 1000 Fastest street-legal production motorcycle[13]
2020 George Poteet Speed Demon 715 streamliner 470.733 757.571 AA/BFS 557 CI twin-turbo Chevy

Cycling records[edit]

A Suzuki Hayabusa at Bonneville Speedway, September 2009

Several motor-paced racing speed records have been attempted at Bonneville.

In 1985, American cyclist John Howard set a then world record of 244 km/h (152 mph).

On 15 October 1995, Dutch cyclist Fred Rompelberg achieved 268.831 km/h (167.044 mph), using a special bicycle behind a dragster with a large shield.[14]

In 2016, Denise Mueller-Korenek claimed a women's bicycle land speed record at 147 mph (237 km/h). She was coached by Howard. It is not clear which authority was supervising the record attempt.[15]

In 2018, Mueller-Korenek broke her own women's record and the men's record at a speed of 183.9 miles per hour (296.0 km/h).[16]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Traugott, Jay (22 Jul 2015). "They Just Cancelled Speed Week At Bonneville For The Second Year In A Row". Retrieved 6 Dec 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Penrod, Emma (12 Jul 2015). "Utah's Famous Bonneville Salt Flats are Disappearing". The Salt Lake Tribune. Huntsman Family Investments, LLC. Archived from the original on 14 July 2015.
  4. ^ Lohnes, Brian (9 Aug 2007). "The Salt Beds Of Salduro Chapter 5: Ernie Moross, Bill Rishel, Teddy Tetzlaff and the Blitzen Benz II arrive on the Salt Beds of Salduro". Retrieved 6 Dec 2018.
  5. ^ "Southern California Timing Association, What's New". Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 6 Dec 2018 – via Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "Southern California Timing Association". Retrieved 6 Dec 2018.
  7. ^ "Bonneville Nationals Inc". Archived from the original on 23 February 2008. Retrieved 6 Dec 2018 – via Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "The History of the Bonneville Speedway - Street Muscle".
  9. ^ "BMST".
  10. ^ "Utah Salt Flats Racing Association". Retrieved 6 Dec 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Carpenter, Michelle. "Klocked: Women with Horsepower". Klocked: Women with Horsepower. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  12. ^ McGraw, Jim (November 2016). "Bonneville Bob, Big Pete, Tall Mike and the Gullwing". Vintage Motorsport.: 64–69 
  13. ^ Clark, Ben (23 Aug 2018). "Kawasaki Ninja H2 hits 209mph at Bonneville Speed Week". Motor Cycle News. Retrieved 6 Dec 2018.
  14. ^ "The formidable record of Fred Rompelberg and its development". Archived from the original on 6 October 2010. Retrieved 8 Oct 2010 – via Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Legan, Kristen. "American woman rides bike 147 mph, a new world record". Retrieved 14 Sep 2016.
  16. ^ "Woman Rides Bicycle To 183.9 MPH — A World Record". National Public Radio. Retrieved 19 Sep 2018.
  17. ^ Preston, Benjamin (19 May 2015). "Don Draper, Mad Men, the Chevrolet Chevelle, and the End of Innocence". Auto World News.

External links[edit]