Chuck’s Bonneville Adventure Part 2


Chuck Johnson at Bonneville
Chuck is cleared to begin his pass

Chuck’s car had been getting quite a bit of attention in the staging line.  Apparently a Japanese compact is something unusual out on the salt.  A few admired the car while most others scoffed at it and gave the car looks of disdain. After hours of waiting it was finally Chucks turn to run.  Would the hastily assembled car run?  Would the unproven engine blow, would the car succumb to 80’s aerodynamics and take off like a plane?  Chuck’s mission for this day seemed relatively simple, accelerate to 130 mph in a mile, hold 130 mph for a mile and stop within a mile, turn the car around, get in line and do it all again to get his license and entrance into the 130 mph club.  This task proved to be not quite so simple.

Big Tom butt crack
My Eyes! Big Tom shows his dime slot.  Not good

After an agonizing wait for the unicycle to make it though the timing traps, Chuck was finally waived off.  Accelerating hard, the hiss and roar of the turbo SR20 made many in the staging lanes look up from whatever they were doing to watch the red car accelerate hard down the course.  We had been told that driving on the salt was similar to snow, sort of slippery.  Big Tom had tested that idea while I was a passenger by slamming on the brakes of his G20 while I sat in it unbelted at about 60 mph.  Let me tell you that the salt seemed to have more traction than snow at 60 mph as I bounced off the dash, getting a lump on my head.

Chuck Johnson B12 at Bonneville
The B12 accelerates hard down course, harder than any car we saw that day.  The hissing snorting turbo turned many heads

Chuck feathered the throttle as he was getting wheelspin even at only 14 psi of boost through second and third gears.  Shifting into fourth caused a moment of excitement as the car became unstable at over 100 mph, slewing sideways.  Chuck’s roadracing experience came into play and he pushed the throttle to the floor knowing that this was the best way to stabilize the FWD car. We could see the car yaw from the pits and became concerned as the car yawed nearly 45 degrees from strait at high speeds, holding our breath until Chuck gathered it up.  You can see this in the in car video. Interestingly enough, the roar of the Sentra’s turbo SR and the sight of it rapidly accelerating, faster than nearly any of the cars we previously witnessed really seemed to get people’s attention and upon the cars return to the staging area. A crowd of admirers formed around it, even those who had turned up their noses at the old Sentra now came over for a look. This time, the Little Sentra That Could got looks of respect.

Chuck Johnson B12
Chuck approaches the first marker to enter the flying mile at 130 mph after battling through instability at about 100 mph

It took Chuck less than ½ mile to reach 130 mph and he feathered the throttle to maintain the speed.  However in between watching the tachometer, GPS, A/F meter and the rest of the gauges while fighting the severe instability problem Chuck got a little confused and prematurely shut his car down at the beginning of the timing traps and didn’t have the necessary 130 mph needed to count as one of his licensing passes.  Grrrrr.  No problem we thought, there was still all of next day to complete this task and another day after that to do additional runs.  Unfortunately Mother Nature decided not to cooperate at this point and the heavens opened up pouring rain.  As the weather forecast indicated only a slight chance of light showers we were sure that this would not amount to much delay and we could return to run tomorrow. We retreated to the plush (in a tacky velvet lounge sort of way) resorts of Wendover Utah leaving our pit equipment in place.

Big Tom
Big Tom is concerned when he sees Chuck fight for control
Back in line, we noted the build up of salt on the car’s body and in the wheel wells


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