Fear and Loathing in Bonneville (My Trip to Speedweek)


Now it was time for the most excruciating and thorough tech inspection ever.  Land speed racing can be pretty dangerous and the cars are built to a very extreme standard of safety, way beyond what we were used to coming from a road racing/rally/drag racing/drift  background.  The tech inspection was most thorough and all inclusive. Just doing this took about half a day.  Some of the process is long due to the size of the Bonneville paddock.  The pits are over 5 miles long and packed with hundreds of entries and thousands of spectators.  With a pit speed of 5-15 mph, it took quite a bit of time to tow the car to the tech area alone. 
First was an inspection of the equipment.  Just because it was all the best brands and brand new didn't mean much to the inspectors.  They check all certification labels and seams for rips and tears. When planning on running speeds of over 175 mph, land speed racing requires that you wear at least an SFI 20 level suit, like the Top Fuel drag racers do, and at least SFI 15 level gloves and shoes.  The suit is stiff, hot and over 1/4″ thick.  If it seems like overkill, think about how many seconds it takes to stop at 200 plus mph on a slippery surface in a fire fanned by the wind blast.  Also the main fire trucks and paramedics are near the middle of the course which could be 5 or more miles away.  The course marshals located every mile that might reach you quicker only have smaller hand held extinguishers.  Even they might take a couple of minutes to get to you.  Pretty sobering. Your average SFI 5 road racing suit might hold up for about 15-20 seconds. Serious land speed racing accidents can be very violent with multiple high speed rolls which is another good reason for anal safety rules.  Speaking of fire, we were warned not to trigger your chute in the case of an engine failure until after you trigger your fire system.  We were told it was common for people to panic and dump the chute only to have it burn off, leaving the car unable to stop.  This stuff is serious.
Next the car is gone over with a fine tooth comb by a group of gentlemen with many years of experience.  Some of the guys were around in the “World's Fastest Indian” day and one of the inspectors actually knew Burt Munro and inspected his bike.  The inspectors looked over the car for about an hour.  It was very intimidating but the inspectors were very nice and told us, “We check carefully to help protect you out there.”
I have never seen such an amount of tech inspectors look so long and hard at a car.
Stephen Quinn and the Tech Inspector try to decipher the hidden meaning painted on the cooling plate.
 In the end only a few minor issues were found and the inspectors were very surprised to find so little on a new car.  They complimented Chuck for doing a great job of studying the rules and signed off on all of the forms, but then we forgot to do the final step – pick up the Tech Inspection sticker! That would end up haunting us later. Annie will be covering the details of the rookie process in her next installment of Project Racer: Land Speed Racing. Did I mention that right after this a freak thunderstorm ripped through and tore apart our pits scattering all of our manuals and paperwork?  Christa was almost blown away trying to hang onto an easyup.  This closed the track for several hours as lightning fried the timing computers.

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