Keep Racing Fun- Bonneville Speed Week-2013
By Mike Kojima
Every once in a while we do a behind the scenes story about some of our Motorsports adventures and stuff we do on the road. Although this might look like we're living the life according to what a lot of our readers think, when you try to perform on a high level, it actually takes a lot of blood, sweat, hard work, and passion to do what we do. We are often too busy making things happen in the Motorsports world to document our adventures but this time we decided to focus on one of our main projects for this year: Editor Chuck Johnson breaking the H/PS world land speed record at Bonneville Speed Week 2013.
Since this was an official MotoIQ project we brought along some of our staff to shoot video of the event and rented a motorhome so we could stay close to the action. I will attempt to write about what I did for this effort but I was only a very small part of the equation.
Chuck Johnson and his wife and contributing editor Annie Sam have spent the better part of their spare time for the last three years building a shell of a Nissan S13 240SX into a car to break a World Land Speed Record and to set a personal gold of exceeding 200 mph. Currently the car is configured for H/PS class which is a stock bodied, non engine swapped production car with a 1000cc to 1500cc forced induction engine. The car can be quickly configured for several other classes which is a cool thing about the platform. Although Chuck and Annie are quite experienced with mechanics and building race cars, a WLSR car is a pretty complicated machine and it has taken a while to get the car to this point. They have had plenty of help from numerous friends, neighbors and especially Nick Hunter of 5523 Motorsports and John Kuchta of Specialty Cars Fabrication who literally closed their own businesses to volunteer many hours to the project.
Here are plenty of the details of the car's construction.
Chuck and Annie and Nick Hunter of 5523 Motorsports have been working around the clock for the past 3 weeks getting the car wrapped up. A lot of that problem is my fault. I gave Chuck my super trick ported and flowed SR20VE 20V head that I had been hoarding for the Dog car. Unfortunately, the head had a defective valve job which resulted in low power and 40% leakdown. The car still ran well enough to set a new H/PS record at El Mirage but during the record attempt it burned a bunch of trick Supertech valves due to leaking non concentric seats. Clark Steppler of Jim Wolf Technology volunteered his rare 20V head to replace mine and Nick Hunter burned the midnight oil to do a nice valve job, a clean up of the ports, installing the whole thing, and getting the car running in the Nick of time (bad pun). The day before we were to leave was spent packing our rented motor home at the palatial MotoIQ headquarters with lots of food, camera gear and way too much beer. We also took essentials like a back up motorcycle, a scooter, a big machete and a powerful pellet rifle just in case we ran into a The Hills Have Eyes type of situation on the road.
I know a lot of you think it's easy to go 200 mph in a straight line on a huge flat surface with nothing to hit but it's actually quite difficult and dangerous. First, the Bonneville salt flats are not perfectly flat and smooth, they are more like a smoother dirt road but still rougher than the freeway. The salt surface is slippery like dirt with little traction and for the H/PS class the car's body must remain stock with no aerodynamic alterations at all. This is rather challenging for me being the team suspension guy. If a car loses control, at the least it will spin, at the worst air will get under that car and cause a very violent high speed flipping crash. A lot of guys have bought it out on the salt due to the latter. I had consulted an aerodynamicist before we had left and he told me that the car would conservatively generate at least 700 lbs of lift on the body. Not good for stability at all. What is worse is that we did not have time to implement some of the suspension changes I wanted to do like reducing droop travel and changing the rear ride frequency. However, we were ready to handle any problem that might have shown up at the event. We had enough KW spare parts to do anything from respringing to totally revalving the suspension. Here Chris Marion from KW loads up the tons of suspension stuff we brought with us.
We also loaded up tons of camera gear and camping stuff. Here we are all packed up and ready to go, our home for the next week sits outside the MotoIQ Megashop.
We hit the road and immediatly things go sour. We hit amazingly bad traffic and it takes 6 hours just to get to the Fontana area. Meanwhile, Chuck and Annie are getting hours ahead of us after leaving from 5523 Motorsports in the San Diego area.