Bonneville Overview for Newcomers
(Written in Spring '09)

SpeedWeek is the Olympics, the Super Bowl, and the World Series of land speed racing. (2009 dates are 8-14 August). There'll likely be about 400 vehicles there, so you'd have the most to see at any one time. A drawback to spectating (for some) is that a few of the fastest vehicles do not go to SpeedWeek -- because the waiting lines can be 6-8 hours long. Vehicles run about every two minutes -- so that's how many are in line. This year ('09), as was last year, the SCTA/BNI is going to attempt to have 3 courses (vs. the more common two). The weather is the determining factor -- if enough salt dries out to make room for the third -- then indeed, there'll be three. The third course will mimic the second course, both being "short courses". That is, timing lights at the one mile, the two, the 2 1/4, the three, and that's the end of the timed portion. The "long course" has lights at the two, the 2 1/4, the three, the four, and the five -- with a speed trap of the last 132' of the last measured mile.

The third course helps reduce waiting times for short course vehicles, and last year it worked very well.

Bub's Speed Trials is next, happening about two weeks after SpeedWeek (30 August - 3 September in 2009). It's for motorcycles only -- and likely will have some very fast bikes, too. It runs AMA rules -- somewhat different from SCTA/BNI.

Then there's World of Speed, 16-19 September (2009). SCTA/BNI rules, one course but with timing equipment for both short and long on the same course, and also special trials for the 130 MPH Club (which gives attendees the chance to run on the Salt, see if their ride will do 0 - 130 in one measured mile, and is a feeder source for Bonneville racers-to-be). Far less entrants -- maybe 150 -- so shorter lines. Many of the SpeedWeek entries, many others that run WoS only, maybe some really fast vehicles. Last year Lionel Pitts rode his Firebird to a fuel record a titch over 300, and a gas record around 285. That's a Firebird.

Then there'll be the "Top Speed Shootout" in later September -- the dates are 20-26 ('09). There'll be four or five of the fastest cars and bikes, by invitation (and paying a hefty entry fee for FIA/FIM sanctioning), and the most likely place to see the Burkland streamliner go well over 400, the Speed Demon went 395 last year -- should break 400 this year. Bikes -- well, the shootout is where Rocky set that 360.913 record, and Sam Wheeler is likely to show up in his EZ Hook bike/liner. He's gone 355. There'll be a few others, too.

Finally is World Finals, in 7-10 October. This event is the coolest -- literally, since summer has faded, and also because only 100 or so will attend. But both of those reasons are good things, because the low attendance means short lines -- and the cool temps mean good air for the naturally-aspirated engines. Blown and nitrous engines don't care so much about the air -- they provide excess combustion oxygen on their own. So World Finals is where quite a few very fast records have been set. But WF is also called off because of weather about every other year -- and last year the course was under water from rainstorms.

So -- if you want to see the biggest show -- by all means, go to SpeedWeek.

As for camping -- there's no camping allowed on the Salt itself, for security reasons as well as BLM rules. But there's an area at "the Bend in the Road" where hundreds, if not a thousand, camp for free. There are a half-dozen porta-potties stationed there, a few dumpsters, and it's where we stage Salt Talks on Sunday evening of SpeedWeek. The Bend in the Road can be a bit noisy, I'm told, with campers refusing to go to bed early. But the area is damn near unlimited -- you could camp a quarter-mile up the road -- or farther, for that matter -- and still use the facilities. It's free, and there's food and shower available at the Truckstop, which is less than a mile before the BITR - right at Exit #4 on I-80.