BONNEVILLE SALT FLATS To set a world land speed record requires all the right parts, in the right place, and the hope they all stay in working order.
After three days of trying, all eight teams under a special-use permit on the salt have had more than their share of problems. With one day left on the salt-track permits, only two records have fallen. Five cars and three high-speed motorcycles started running for records on Monday.
Every camp has encountered some little glitch in their record attempts.
The most serious problem occurred when Lynn Goodfellow, 67, of Boulder, Nev., was seriously burned when his car caught fire. He was taken by Life Flight to the University of Utah Burn Center.
Terry Nish, and his son Mike, were confident they could hit a new world record for a naturally aspirated car. Less than two miles into their run Tuesday, however, a valve gave in and punched a hole in the valve cover.
"Who would have guessed," said Terry Nish. "I've never seen anything like that before. Unfortunately, the damage is terminal for this event."
Bob Summers, now diseased, set the world record in 1965 at 409.27 mph. A half-dozen drivers have been chasing that record almost from the day it was set. Terry Nish said he has seriously pursued the record since 1992.
Last year, same time, same place, the Nishes, as happened this year, lost the engine early in the run.
The track permit is good through today.
Ron Main of California, owner a small streamliner with a four-cylinder engine, and George Peteet, a driver from Tennessee, had bigger problems.
On the first pass Tuesday, at a speed around 390 mph, Peteet lost the rubber on the two front tires and had to deal with a small fire. On his return run, the engine caught fire and, he said, completely shut the car down.
"The car was on fire and the fire truck was chasing me, trying to get me to stop. I had no brakes, the chute was out and all I could do was wait until the car coasted to a stop," Peteet said.
"I coasted through the (timing) lights at 312 mph. The average was about 345, which was still a record. But I think I could have bumped it up to 365 without the fire."
The record was 326 mph. The two men were attempting to hit 400 mph..
Rocky Robinson of Grass Valley, Calif., is after the overall motorcycle record of 350 mph. He went into the lights at 336 mph early Tuesday, then a gust of wind pushed him off the track and he had to shut down. He was pushing the 340 mark on Wednesday.
"I'm disappointed because I had a good head of steam going, but the wind is always a factor, especially with a motorcycle, " he said.
Tom Burkland of Montana, also going for the 409 mph mark, made a run of 403 on Wednesday, but had engine problems and came within 100 feet of hitting a dike.
Sam Wheeler of California solved a tire problem, but was trying to work out glitches in the engine. On a 355-mph run two years ago, he lost the rubber on the front tire, so he went to an aluminum wheel, "and it seems to be working," he said.
But not the engine. On Wednesday, he made a pass of 340. The standing motorcycle record is 350 mph.
Record attempts, for some of the cars and motorcycles entered, will continue today.