We apologise for the lack of updates on our road trip but we had a small systems failure in our IT department. (We forgot the power lead for the laptop and the battery went flat!)
Anyway the 1600 mile from Houston to Utah was everything you can possibly imagine. From the wide open plains to the mountains. We certainly feel as if we have been blessed with some fantastic views.
Our first stop after Houston was Amarillo, Texas. Ian really couldn’t resist singing the Tony Christie classic for at least 50 miles on the way complete with ‘Peter Kay’ dancing! Amarillo is the home to one of the most famous steakhouses in America. You can attempt the 72oz challenge, where you have to eat a 72oz steak complete with side dishes and all the trimmings and you get the dish for free. We were not brave enough to attempt it but Ian did try the taster dish which was a quarter of the final dish. (He couldn’t even finish that!)
The next stop was a mountain town called Moab, a ski resort that prides itself on being able to offer all forms of outside activities during the summer, from white water rafting to downhill mountain biking a truly amazing place with a certain old world charm.
Day three of our odyssey saw us finally make it to Salt Lake City in Utah. A massive city and although we felt like we were nearing the end of this leg of the journey it was still 120 miles from Bonneville.
As you drive along the incredibly straight and nondescript road that joins Salt Lake City to the small town of Wendover on the Utah Nevada border, it is impossible to not think of the early western settlers as they traveled from one side of the US to the other, and how hard things must have been for them.
Far more importantly the road to the Bonneville salt flats is about 2 miles outside Wendover and we couldn’t resist taking our first peak at the salt and what is to be our home for the next week.
We managed to meet some wonderful people at the ‘bend in the road’ campsite and they offered to look after the car for a night as our salubrious caravan would not be ready until the day after.
That night we stayed at one of the hotels in Wendover and when Ian went on one of his blagging trips he managed to meet the chairman of the SCTA and the chief technical inspector. After the exchange of pleasantries and some alcoholic beverages it was arranged that the senior inspector would stop by the campsite and have a look at the car to see whether there was anything we had to seriously worry about.
True to his word he turned up the next day just after we had finished setting up our caravan and had a thorough look at the car. He pointed out a couple of minor details but basically all was well with the car. We slept well that night with a huge worry off our mind.
Thursday dawned and we went on the salt with our newly acquired American branch of the project or ‘the bend in the road crew’ as they are better known! These are a bunch of relatively elderly ladies and gentlemen that have been coming to the salt for over 30 years. The knowledge base is virtually unfathomable and priceless to us!
With the help of our new friends we got the pit area set up.
Once tech inspection was out of the way we had a few silly issues to sort out and we were good to go, we almost got Friday off but for a slip up with a piece of equipment that meant we had to do the ‘bail out’ test on Friday. The test involves, being strapped into the car in full fire proof suit, gloves, boots, arm restraints, HANS device and crash helmet. Ian then had to exit the car in a timely manner with is eyes closed. luckily all that Tai Chi he does really came good.
On Thursday evening the first of the British contingent arrived and our rock, Andy Best arrived having driven from Las Vegas. Despite the fact he was obviously tired the first thing he wanted to do was drive to the salt and see the pit area.
Friday evening the rest of the team arrived and despite jetlag, it being very late, and dark the excitement which was building was obvious. Harry Smith his wife Penny, Janine and Pete Riley obviously shattered went to bed in preparation for an early start. Ian can be a hard task master when he wants to be!
Saturday, RACE DAY! It is 100% compulsory to attend the drivers meeting at 9.00am, so in above 38 degree temperatures we stood in the sun and heard from the organisers. Particularly explaining that the salt was in the best condition for at least 5 years.
After the meeting as ‘rookies’ we had to go through a lot of induction processes to make sure that driver and team knew all the necessary safety procedures and could carry out a full run safely, without endangering ourselves or others. This is called a rookie run.
Whilst the idea of a rookie run is to have slow controlled run to prove you have control of the car and can turn off and use the parachute correctly, if you reach the required speeds you can use the timing slip to up your racing license to race on the longer courses.
Due to a very minor issue with the fire extinguisher and an unusually large amount of rookies this year we did not get our first run until half past three in the afternoon.
Our plan for the weekend as we had been warned that the first two days are very busy was simply to qualify for our first race license. This meant driving between 125 and 150mph. It was made clear that on our first run we were not to exceed 150mph.
The car was not running particularly well and we had trouble getting it to run cleanly over 4000rpm so 150mph was never really likely.
Our first run with all the excitement and tension that it involved was officially 126.258mph. This is an average speed between the first and second mile of the course. So our entire weekends target was exceeded on our first run. To say we were all happy would be an overstatement. So much so Ian broke down in tears at the end of the run. The pressure of all of the teams very hard work all came out in one moment of ecstatic joy.
After some fetteling and a bit of a clean up and calm down we cleaned the car and settled down to let the adrenaline subside.
At this point someone pointed out that the line for the rookie course was short and that we still had over an hour. So off we went to try and better our first run. On this run, armed with a little more knowledge and experience Ian was determined to do a little better. Our reward a run of 137.386 with a top speed of 144!!
Not too bad when you consider the engine still wasn’t running well and we couldn’t reach anywhere near our full potential.
We went back to our various accommodations with a major spring in our step.
At this point we normally have some sort of plea for financial assistance but on this occasion we will refrain except to say a massive THANK YOU to everyone reading this for your financial, moral and spiritual help. This adventure so far is exceeding all expectations the only thing that could improve it would be if you could all join us.