Bob's Falcon gets puched off the line
This month I take a break from the characters at the Lake. Instead, I'm going to answer some of the frequently asked questions about Dry Lake Racing. Places like El Mirage, Muroc, Bonneville Salt Flats are all associated with the birth of Hot Rodding and Land Speed Racing. Many of the Street Rods being built now are directly influenced by cars that have ran at the Dry Lakes over the last 50 years.
In Australia you have the chance to experience what I consider to be the greatest hot rodding adventure - DLRA SpeedWeek. The event is held early March every year (5-9th March in 2007) at Lake Gairdner in South Australia - located 131 kms north of Iron Knob. The road is dirt but you don't need a 4WD. Any car will do it if you cruise in steady. The first time I went to the Salt, I drove my lowered FJ Ute in, raced it and then drove home. On the way home, after racing at 112 mph, the steering arm did brake, we were stuck on the side of the road for five hours, and the alternator did give up the ghost in Adelaide at 11pm, and it did take us a full two days to get home without stopping (without stopping intentionally anyway) but we had a ball and I haven't missed a meet since.
Where we race is at the edge of Lake Gairdner which adjoins a sheep station. Len and Joy run the station and with the help of a crew of locals, they supply good country cooking for breakfast, lunch and tea at reasonable prices. There is some accommodation available at the homestead - but you have to book early.
I just take a tent and sleeping bag. But from experience, I can recommend that you don't arrive at the lake at 2am in the dark exhausted, pull out the sleeping bag and sleep on an ants nest. Also from experience, I can tell you not to accidently leave your tent and sleeping bag at home and sleep on a truck tarp with ropes on the flat tray of a truck.
There is race camp and a spectator camp near the Lake. Showers and toilets are available. Water is scarce so we don't waste it.
Spectators are welcome. You will be given access to the pit areas and a safe viewing area. Volunteers are even more welcome. Running SpeedWeek is a big job. Being a volunteer helps the DLRA and lets you be a part of SpeedWeek.
You will need a survival kit in the harsh environment. It is very hot out there and the glare from the Salt is incredible. A must have is a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen etc. I always take extra water and food in case the F Truck breaks down. Shelter is a necessity but the salt is so hard, that tent pegs cannot be hammered into the ground. You will need a cordless drill and some tex screws to secure any ties.
You can always tell who are the newcomers - they are covered from head to toe in red dust from the trip in trying to hammer tent pegs into the salt. That's what I did on my first trip.
If you want to race, you must join the DLRA. $120 makes you a life member. With this you will receive a rule book that covers all you need to know about safety equipment and classes.
All cars in the pits must be kept on tarps. We leave the salt in the pristine condition we found it in.
The faster you go the more safety gear you need. As far as classes go, there is a class for almost every vehicle. The Big Knob roadster is a B/Gas which means 373-439 cubic inches running on gasoline. The FJ I drove on the first trip still holds the Australian record for ______. You can race anything as long as the Scrutineers OK it. You don't need a lot of money for Salt Lake Racing, and the comradery between the guys is amazing.
All drivers are licensed to 125 mph 150 175 200 etc. You have to satisfy the officers that you can control your car at the proposed speed. Alan Murchinson while attempting an 80 mph pass, actually managed 160 mph in a twin engined Lakester. Steve Charlton (aka Animal) commented that they didn't mean 80 mph for each engine! This is not the way to make friends, or get your license.
Cars are checked by scrutineers. Because it takes a lot of effort to get to the Salt, fellow drivers and crews are always willing to help to rectify any problems found to make sure you get a run.
The course is nine miles of straight flat salt. The first 3 miles is run up. The following 3 miles are timed. The speed is the average speed over one flying mile. The last three miles are for slowing down. If you need more room - there's about 80 miles after that! In the 34 Roadster we build up speed for 2 miles. Hold it flat out for two miles. Knock it into neutral and ride the worlds fastest billy cart until its slow enough to turn off to the return road. Adrenaline Rush!
Every night theres plenty to do with bench racing and bullshit sessions right across the camp.
Pack up time means everything goes with us. Rubbish and all. We leave the lake as we found it. Ready for next time.
See you at the Lake, Norm Hardinge.