Bonneville 2020

          By Tim McMaster 

Speed Week 2020 report:

We survived! With all the cancellations of events this year it was great to see the SCTA/BNI pull off another meet at the Bonneville salt flats. They had to jump through a number of hoops and make sure all the Covid-19 guidelines were followed. But it did happen.

Great salt this year too! It will never get back to the thickness it was in it's glory days, at least not in my life time, but it sure was in good shape for the event. Not bad weather, neither rain or too hot, just a very good event.
In light of all that is going on and just trying to do the right thing we cut our trip down a bit, didn't stay in town and just dry camped out at the bend. Normally where I would arrive on Wednesday before the event we came in on Friday. Our group met up on the North side of the road at “the bend”, we had a rather large crew this year with first timers and return members. The cast reads as such: Kathy McMaster, Gary Goeringer, Dan Barnett, Terri Barnett, Justin Martin, Bill Bennett, Brian Blain, and Shawn Mayer also our favorite photographer Mike Harrington with his son Marlon. Late arrivals on Saturday were Brian Bunch along with Max and Jackson McAfee to round out our gang. The thought was to tech on Friday afternoon and be ready to run as soon as the driver's meeting was over, that however didn't happen. With all the "social distancing" rules they were doing inspections in the pit as opposed to waiting in line at the tech booth so we set up out pits next to the "Boners" and made arrangements to have the inspectors meet us after the drivers meeting.

Saturday morning came and we all gathered at the usual place to hear people and politicians pat each other on the back, give out a few yearly awards and see George talk about how he will always have the Hot Rod trophy. (It's true and he gets it again this year! Congratulations!) After a few instructions on how we are to run the courses we bowed for a prayer, stood with hats off for THE National Anthem (not one person knelled) drove the long course and returned to the pits to get things ready for inspection.

Back at the pits we call to let the inspectors know that we were ready, they came, they did their thing and signed me off. Simple as that. The car was pretty much unchanged from last year so I didn't expect any trouble with it during the process. Next it was time to just look over thing ourselves, quick check of the valve lash cold, then warm it up to check again. You might be amazed at how different the lash is once warmed up. Gains at least .005" as the aluminum heads expand more that the iron thus drawing the rockers away from the cam/lifters/push rods and making it a little loose. Double check the timing, then we pump all the fuel out of the tank. Now we head to the "Event fuel" truck, fill up and get the tank sealed just in case we get a record they will know we aren't putting some super secret additive in there to make us go fast.

hings all seem to be in order so it's time to head to staging and take our place in line. Last year with the bad course all I was able to muster out of the car was 160.268 mph so I still needed to "License up" to my "B" ticket. That means I need to do 175 before I move on to 200 mph. Also if I want to run the long course I need to reach 175 mph by the 2 1/4 mile mark. We get to front of staging, I am all suited up and strapped in. The started checks me out and gives a good final tug on my belts to make sure I can't breath and as soon as the course is clear he motions that I should drop my shield and make my run. Gary in the F250 pushes me hard up to 40 mph then hits the brakes, when I feel he is not pushing anymore I open the throttle and release the clutch! Adrenaline is working hard now as I accelerate trying to get the right feel between traction and horse power at about 5500 rpm in first I put the peddle to the firewall and the engine screams as I feel the rear end swerve a bit and lose traction, up to 7000 rpm and shift, no clutch and no lift just jam it into gear. Doing well over 120 now as I accelerate through second. 7000 comes again and jam it to third. One more time to 7000 and jam it into fourth, now it's all about keeping a straight line and don't make too quick of an adjustment on steering inputs, roadsters like to spin. Moving past the first mile marker the car is still climbing in speed but not as quick as at first, there is no speedo in the car and I don't have any data recording but I figure I'm doing better than 150 in the first mile and may gain another 20 mph by the second mile. The second mile marker flys by and everything is running fine as I approach the 2 1/4 mile mark. At 6300 rpm I figure 175 is in the bag, then come the three mile mark. Watch the tach all the way I see 6500 rpm as I pass the third and last mile marker for my run. I kick it to neutral as I let off the gas, cut the fuel pump then kill the ignition. Deploy the chute and feel for the tug, it hits harder than I remember from last year, must have been going a lot faster. I look for the best turn out and don't see anything that looks better than the rest of the course so figuring one place is as good as another I start to turn out to the left. Oh crap! I remember that this is not El Mirage, this is not the "Short course" this is the "Combo course" and you turn out to the right on this one. (that must be why I didn't see and groomed turn outs) Realizing my mistake I turn back to the right, go across the course and make it about half way to the return road. Damn! I get out in a hurry as the SCTA official is driving over to see if I'm alright. (turning to the left is declaring an emergency) I tell him I am okay and that I made a boo boo, he helps me back to the return road and informs me of my time. 185.990 at the three and 183.020 at the 2 1/4 mark, good enough for a "B" license and a 175 tag to clear me for the long course. Then he informs me that "I shit on the SCTAs rug" was a bad boy and would have to do it again. Oh well, it was a good run and nothing blew, should be easy to do it again. We pack the chute and get back in line.

Back in staging we realize that time is getting close to the shut down of the day, they tell us that we can run again if we want or wait till morning. We push over to the side and opt for cooler air in the morning. One day down and one pass in. That's how it goes sometimes.

At sunrise Sunday morning we are out at the line waiting for the record return runs to go through then it will be our turn. I'm signaled that I need to suit up and get ready to go.

Same thing, the starter gives me the course, Gary pushes me to 40 mph and I'm off! The car does feel a bit more energetic in the cooler morning air as I go through the gears. Jamming through fourth I feel this will be a great run. Turn out to the right, turn out to the right, turn out to the right you idiot. Fighting to keep straight all the way down the course is a little tougher this morning as I attached the steering yoke one tooth off on the splines and my hand felt funny low and to the left but I managed to keep it under control and buzz through the third mile at what looked like 6600 rpm. The sun was in my eyes. Shift to neutral, switches off and chute out. Turn out to the right. back to the return road my crew greets me with nothing but smiles. I did it! 187.589 at the three and 186.028 at the two and a quarter. Run back to the starter for him to sign my time slip and then back to the official's booth for my "B" license and 175 sticker. Cleared for the long course! All is well in the world.

After Getting my tags we decide to get back in line to make another run. Check the valve lash and timing again just to make sure all is good and decide to make a slight jet change, lean it a little to see if it helps with the altitude. Back out in staging for the long course the line is short and we get right up to the starting line. I hardly have time to think let alone get my suit on. No one is behind us pushing so we have time. One nice thing about this year was low attendance, I think only 210 entries, about a third of normal. First time on the long course I psyche myself out for the run to come. This time I am to turn out to the left which I am very happy for, feels natural and I have a big air scoop blocking my vision to the right. Strapped in the starter checks me out and gives that breath taking final tug on my belts as he (Jim Jensen SCTA legend) tells me to favor the right or the left of the course. The center is getting a bit soft so "Hug the cones". He releases me to the course and I preform a text book run with a clean exit to the left after the third mile and time results almost the same as my last pass on the "combo course". We pack the chute and head to the pits to talk about what's next.

The fact that I can feel the car slipping and the rpm seems to like to stop climbing around 6700 rpm makes me thing I need a little more traction and maybe a bit more fuel. After much debate we decide to just go back to the old jet combination and let 30 lbs of air pressure out of the tires. Now I run them at 85-90 lbs normally and a few people wanted me to let only 10 lbs out at a time but friend and seasoned racer Mike Cook agreed that it was pointless to just let a little out so we went to 50 lbs in the rear and left the fronts hard.

We head back to staging, stopping short of the line by about 100 feet. At that point the starter just motions us to the front and asks "why do you stop way back there and walk up, just get up here, no waiting" I love short lines. I get suited up and strapped into the car. The starter, this time Jill Iverson, tells me the course has gotten worse but I'll be okay if I "hug the cones". She tugs on my belts and gives me the course. Gary pushes up to 40 and hits the brakes. I drop the gas peddle and damn if she don't bite harder. I give it everything all at once, run up to 7k and hit second. Run up to 7k and hit third. Run up to 7k and into fourth then settle in as I watch the tach climb. By the 2 1/4 I am already at 6600 rpm in top gear and still climbing, I see the three mile marker coming on fast, look at the tach and see 7000 rpm while smelling burning oil. Ease off? Hell no! The three mile marker goes by at 7100 rpm and I feel great as I start shut down procedure. Just as I hang out the laundry I see what looks like a two litre coke bottle coming up on the course, you can't swerve to miss things at that speed so I just went right over the top of it. As I think I have gone past it with no problem there is an audible "bang" and the right rear of the car drops out from under me. As I had just deployed the chute I had fairly good control of the car still but you could tell things were going away. I turned off the course but the extra drag of a blown tire and the rear end being ripped to one side stopped me pretty quick before reaching the return road.

The officials were already rushing towards me when I got out to asses the damage, I was unhurt but I can't say the same for the car. I told them how I had hit something on the course and one drove off to search for the offending piece. My car was out of action for the duration but what about my time? My crew got there with the trailer to limp the poor roadster back to the pits but they brought with them a time slip that took the sting away. 189.193 at the two and a quarter and 192.365 at the three. 5 mph faster than the pass before with minor changes and although not quite 200 still good enough to make me "World's Fastest Y-Block". A title I'm happy with. Say what you want about the ol' Y but I think it did pretty well.

When the official returned with the part that caused all the ruckus it turned out to be a piece of exhaust pipe that fell of a Camaro of all things. Talk about adding insult to injury. Ha Ha

The fellow that dropped it came and found me, apologized profusely and offered to pay for damages. This is racing and I bare him no ill will, he was honest and upstanding to come talk to me. We'll be back next year and I have a very strong feeling that 200+ will be the result. God Bless the Y-Block!

Cheers! Tim

All artwork, text, design, and photos, are Copyright 2008 by Tim McMaster.
Email Tim
Back To Articles