This 30,000 acre salt pan in northwestern Utah is probably best known for an entirely unlikely reason. Given the slickness of its salty surface, it’s not the best place to achieve fast acceleration of wheeled vehicles. And yet if these Bonneville Salt Flats are known for one thing it is for land speed records. What gives?
“Dude I was sideways out there for almost a mile, we definitely have a traction problem!!”
~Overheard at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
What the Salt Flats lacks in grip (experienced racers describe the surface as similar to well-maintained gravel) it compensates for with an expanse that is smooth, flat, and long. So long and flat that it’s possible to see the curvature of the earth while looking eastward. More than enough room for racing enthusiasts to create the 10 mile long tracks needed for their vehicles to reach maximum speed – something folks have been doing at Bonneville since Teddy Tetzlaff set the first land speed record here in 1914.
Since then the Salt Flats has become a Mecca for speed junkies and gear heads. Both amateurs and professionals gather here each August for SpeedWeek where participants race everything from turbocharged streamliners to go carts. It’s a place where even the barstools go 55 miles per hour.
Unfortunately, we missed the excitement of SpeedWeek, arriving long after the smoke cleared and the fast cars departed. On the plus side, we also missed the crowds, leaving this strange, salty surface mostly for ourselves.