The Bonneville Salt Flats have been used for land speed racing since daredevil Teddy Tezlaff set an unofficial speed record of 141.73mph on his Blitzen Benz in 1914. Hard, flat and naturally renewed each year, this unique place has become hallowed ground for motorheads celebrating ingenuity and the pioneering spirit. Hundreds of speed records have been set and surpassed by hot rods, roadsters, lakesters, streamliners and motorbikes. Since 1949, the 300mph, 400mph, 500mph and 600mph land speed records have been broken on the salt.
Speed Week started out 65 years ago when Californian hot-rodders and lowriders drove out to Bonneville to ‘shoot the salt’. In recent years, the number of spectators and participants has grown to make it the highlight of any land speed racing calendar. Entrants travel from all over the globe to make or break records; spectators come along to cheer on racers, chat to drivers and crew members and check out all the modified machines, vintage vehicles and cool cars on proud display.
Resurrecting a Dream
Mickey Thompson was 8 years old when he first stood on the Bonneville Salt Flats and saw John Cobbs set a new speed record. Mickey vowed to break this record and many years later, he fulfilled this by setting a new record of 406.6mph and becoming the fastest driver on earth.
The official record remained out of Mickey’s reach due to a breakdown on the return run, but if anything, this only made him more determined to win it. The Challenger II was born and Mickey returned in 1968, only to be foiled by Mother Nature – a freak storm submerged the salt flats and the races were cancelled. Mickey would never get to set a land speed record in the Challenger II.
Danny Thompson (Mickey’s son) returns this weekend (9 Aug 2014) to settle his family’s unfinished business. The Challenger II, updated to meet modern performance and safety standards but retaining the same basic layout, chassis and aluminium body, has already achieved 317mph on a test run and looks ready to make its long-awaited debut at Speed Week.
Stay in touch with us at Mickey Thompson Tires for updates on Speed Week (9 – 15 Aug 2014); we’ll be keeping a close eye on Danny’s progress and keeping our fingers crossed for his success.
Good luck Danny!
All images by Holly Martin