Chuck’s Bonneville Adventure Part 2

Chuck Johnson's B12 at Bonneville

Chuck’s Bonneville Adventure Part 2

By Mike Kojima and Annie Sam

As we left off in our last installment, Chuck and Annie were driving up to Bonneville after a long flog at prepping the car for the rigors ahead.

Fighting exhaustion and illness even before they left, Annie and Chuck left for Bonneville and drove 800 miles nearly non stop through the night.  Arriving at Wendover Utah late in the AM and exhausted, Annie and Chuck decided to spend the first day of the USFRA meet sleeping. Annie was now sick and Chuck near the hallucination point from lack of sleep.  This would later prove to be a bad mistake.

Meanwhile I caught a flight to Salt Lake City and a ride to the Salt Flats courtesy of Big Tom’s Garage. Tom Oathoudt, the owner of Big Tom’s Garage would end up being a great help over the weekend.  Arriving at the salt flats early in the afternoon found Chuck still in line and not being able to complete his first critical licensing run.  USFRA rules state that a run of 100 mph is needed to qualify for the 130 mph run group which is needed to qualify for the 150 mph group.  A car had blown an engine on the course and oiled down over a mile of the salt forcing a big delay while the mess was cleaned up. The delay meant that there was a lot of time to take in the awesome feeling one gets being out on the salt.

Chuck Johnson B12 on the line at Bonneville
Out on the salt, Chuck waits nervously for his turn

You are surrounded by snowy pure whiteness as far as the eye can see, even bending to the curve of the earth which is perceptible in the distance.  It is also very flat and smooth, almost like poured concrete.  The distant mountains seem to hover in mid air suspended by shimmering mirages as do cars at the end of their run.  The place is steeped in history and automotive lore.  The ghosts of those who never returned from a run gone bad seem near. The salt flats seem like a nearly hallowed place which makes me want to remove my hat out of respect except that the bright reflected light would give me severe sunburn.

B12 instruments
Sensory overload. Since we didn’t have the time to dyno and hadn’t been able to set the boost controller, Chuck had to watch the boost gauge, tach, GPS and A/F monitor, all while trying to drive.  All of this confusing stuff was to contribute to an unintended abort of the first run

The cars that run out on the salt are very unusual; some like the Cobalt factory effort from GM Motorsports are high tech state of the art race machines.  Others look to be the work of eccentric mad scientist types.  Others are decades old cars that families have run and refined for several generations.  Finally there are a few cars that seem to have come directly from the set of Mad Max.  A wide numbers of classes with very interesting rules ensures that everything from a wingless BAR Honda F1 car to a flathead Ford powered roadster has an appropriate class where it can be competitive and go for a speed record.

Innovate Motosports
Innovate Motorsports’s datalogger was extremely useful during the cars lone run down the salt.  With it we knew that the car was running perfectly and was good to go for the next run that never happened.  We logged RPM, A/F ratio, Boost pressure and oil pressure

I noted an old VW that was apparently a record holder in two classes, for one class the owner merely removed two sparkplugs to make it a two cylinder.  A riding lawnmower putted by in an attempt to set some sort of record for lawnmowers and a unicycle tottered down the course as well.

Racing unicycle
This guy was really going for a unicycle speed record.  We had to wait about 20 minutes as he tottered down the course


Big Tom downloads the Innovate datalogger.  Checking out the data we were relieved that all was right with the engine


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