It’s that time of year where we dig out the floppy hats, sunscreen, lip balm and go-fast underwear and get on the big metal bird to Bonneville!
Yes, once again, the EFG International supported Flower of Scotland will be attempting to become the fastest ever car with a sub-1 litre engine at the world-famous Bonneville Speedweek starting this coming Saturday and the team is gathering on the West Coast of America ready for the long trek out to the Salt Lake. The Flower of Scotland streamliner arrived at the Port of Long Beach last week, but due to the vagaries of the US customs will only be released into our care late today (Monday). The Speed Scotland crew fly in tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday) and will immediately get to work checking her over and installing some late arriving parts: in particular a replacement boost controller for the one that give its life in the fire last year. And then they’ll start the long drive out to Utah which will take some 14 hours.
Regular readers will have watched the BBC documentary of our efforts on the Salt last year (if not, it’s on You Tube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgTkZ2INTU0) and know that an engine failure then a fire meant the Flower never really got to show what she was capable of in 2012, but we’re back with fresh engines and great gearboxes and hoping that South California Timing Association record is going to tumble this year. Although this will require 2 passes down the Salt at over 313 miles per hour and the Flower is already pretty interesting to drive above 220-230mph. Also the BBC failed to convey in their film quite what an unpleasant environment a true Streamliner is to drive: The first thing you have to contend with is the incredible heat once the lid is shut: it hits well over 50 degrees inside my 7 layer nomex fire suit. For aerodynamic reasons the frontal area needs to be as small as possible so I am in very cramped confines: my chin is wedged onto my chest making it a fight to breath and I am unable to move my head in any direction as it is jammed firmly into the roll cage. Add in so much adrenalin that 2 passes is pretty much the physical limit for a day as the body is totally drained, methanol fumes that enter the cockpit within the first 60 seconds of the run to make your eyes stream and vibration so bad from the disc wheels on the front that I struggle to see anything above about 180mph (known as a “grey out”) and you can gather it’s an evil environment which fortunately I only need to be in for a few minutes each run.
You wonder reading that why we’re all so excited to be back at Bonneville? Well apart from it being the coolest place on earth to be a car guy, we’ve made some changes this year, so we’re a little more relaxed. So instead of running the Flower of just the 7 days of Speedweek, we’ll be aiming to leave her in California and return for the FIA Shootout meeting later in the year meaning it’s not just the “1 shot over 1 week per annum” which puts so much pressure on the crew each year.
This means hopefully we’ll get to join the fastest of the fast: just 10 cars and 10 bikes are invited to “the Shootout” where we get to run in 2 directions but with just a 1 hour turn-around time for the FIA World Records. In our class this is around the 240mph mark which shows how much tougher the short turn-around is compared to the 313mph of the “SCTA” where you have 3 hours of preparation. That said, the Flower should be more than capable of breaking that given reliability, good Salt and a bit of luck. So hopefully a 2 part blog from me on here this year, but I’ll kick off with all the stories from Tech inspection later in the week and hope you’ll join me on here for the regular updates.
In the meantime, here’s the rear-facing camera of a short (2 mile) pass last year that gives you a rear view of what it looks like to accelerate from 0 to 200mph on the Salt (watch the huge push truck disappear down to a dot): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDd-VCwc8zI
Your “squeezing his brave pills into his suitcase as we speak” correspondent,