Landspeed Racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats
The Bonneville Salt Flats have long attracted racers from throughout the world and have become the site of numerous land speed records. Their attraction for these racers is due to the hard, flat surface that is continually renewed by nature each year.
The potential for racing at Bonneville was first recognized in 1896 by W.D. Rishel, who was scouting a bicycle race course from New York to San Francisco. Rishel returned and convinced daredevil Teddy Tezlaff to attempt an automobile speed record on the flats. Tezlaff drove his Blitzen Benz 141.73 m.p.h. to set an unofficial record in 1914.
Further attempts to promote automobile racing on the Salt Flats failed until the 1930s when Ab Jenkins, a Utah native driving a Studebaker dubbed the Mormon Meteor, began setting endurance speed records at Bonneville. Jenkins was later instrumental in promoting landspeed racing and luring British racing legend Sir Malcolm Campbell to the Salt Flats in 1935.
By 1949, the raceway on the Bonneville Salt Flats was the standard course for world land speed records. On this natural straightaway, the 300, 400, 500, and 600 mile-per-hour land speed barriers were broken.
Since these early days, hundreds of records have been set and broken in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes. Here are just some of the astounding landspeed records established at Bonneville over the decades:
- 1914: Teddy Tetzlaff, Blitzen Benz, 141.73 mph (unofficial), piston
- 1935: Sir Malcolm Campbell, Bluebird, 301.126 mph, piston
- 1940: Ab Jenkins, Mormon Meteor III, 161.180 mph, 24 hr endurance run, piston
- 1947: John Cobb, Railton Mobil Special, 394.194 mph, piston
- 1964: Craig Breedlove, Spirit of America, 526.277 mph, jet
- 1965: Craig Breedlove, Spirit of America, 600.601 mph, jet
- 1967: Burt Munro, Munro Special, 183.586 mph, motorcycle
- 1970: Gary Gabolich, Blue Flame, 622.407 mph, rocket
- 2001: Don Vesco, Turbinator, 458.440 mph, turbine
- 2006: Chris Carr, BUB Streamliner, 350.884 mph, motorcycle
- 2006: Andy Green, JCB Dieselmax, 350.092 mph, diesel