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Bonneville SpeedWeek Cancellation Final Report

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SpeedWeek at the Salt Flats was to be the first of several testing grounds as Danny Thompson (son of Speed King Mickey Thompson) hoped to push his little metal “cigar on wheels” Challenger 2 streamliner past 400 mph, past 450 mph, maybe even past 500 mph. His attempt at a record was postponed with the rainout of this year’s timed event. Photo: CNN

The 100th anniversary of racing at the Bonneville Salt Flats was rained out this earlier this month. This was the first time this has happened since 1992. The following is the press release from Scott C. Andrews, president of the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA).

Dear SCTA-BNI Racers and Fans
As you know the Board had a very tough decision to cancel this year’s Century of Speed celebration at this year’s SpeedWeek. In order for all of the competitors and fans to completely understand our reasoning so we are providing this explanation of the process involved in the cancellation decision.

As we had stated earlier in the week the conditions at the Bonneville Salt Flats were excellent. The courses looked smooth and very hard. After our initial set-up we were ready to complete the courses by installing the timing wire and clocks and also the edge and center painted lines, we had planned those for Thursday.

When it rained Wednesday evening we were forced to delay the opening of tech inspection and the final course set-up items for 24 hours. The slight bit of rain that fell was not a real concern for us as it had occurred in the past with little long term impact.

On Thursday we finished much of the course marking and with the standing (but receding) water on the courses we decided to delay another 24 hours to allow for additional drying to occur. We had not yet laid down the timing system wire and we did not want to do this in standing water. Leaving the salt that evening it started to rain and really dropped quite a bit of water on the courses. Some of the officials have seen this in the past and they stated that we should use caution here to ensure that we did not call the race too early as this condition has historically cleared in the past. The courses had shown signs of improvement overnight especially courses 2-3 as they are the highest in elevation by a slight amount. This drying is what gave us reason for another 24 hour delay rather than an outright cancellation.

When it rained on Friday night we knew that we might have a permanent problem and we dispatched veteran Board member Roy Creel to the salt immediately. He noted that the rain was not coming down on the BSF but just in Wendover, so we decided to stay the course and see what Saturday brought us. During this delay Bill Lattin the BNI Chairman and SCTA Race Director asked a number of long-time Bonneville racers to accompany us to the BSF in the morning to review conditions. Saturday morning we all gathered together and took a driving tour of the race courses. It was very obvious that the rain that had initially missed the BSF had actually circled around (just like we saw on the radar) and the squall was quite severe. The amount of water on the BSF was insurmountable.

 

This was a difficult position for the Board. We tried to balance the optimism of knowing that water historically dries-off of the BSF courses very quickly. It is understood by all of the officials that of our racers must be informed as early as possible if a cancellation is imminent. The last thing that we wish to do is cause any undue financial or time burden on the competitors and fans, and give them as much time to allow for a change in their scheduling as possible. Many of our racers and fans have regular jobs and they need to schedule this time-off and that is a big part of our decision making process. How to reduce the financial and travel expense exposure is very important to us and we considered this in our decision making process. The racer is at the center of these decisions with this Board. It was the racer that we finally had to serve and give the cancellation notice because we would not be able to provide a dry competitive racing surface.

This year we tried to have all of our communications in concert with one another. We updated the phone line at the SCTA office, we updated the SCTA website with current information and we used a new tool this year Facebook to get the word out too. If you went to the live streaming link on the SCTA website we even put up a loop of the same information in the form of an audio interview with pictures running in the background. Given another day we had already gathered the items to get the FM radio station up to help as well, but the race was cancelled before we could get that plan in-place. When we cancelled we also called all of the major hotels to inform them of our decision. There were also a few TV interviews that went out on the TV as well. Communication with the racers and public was better than ever and even with this a few did not get the word timely and we are sorry for that. Many of you did not know that we sent teams out to the hotels to start inspections on Thursday and Friday to see if we could help once we started racing. This was not formal as we did not have an area that was easily open to us so we did the best that we could.

It has since rained twice more on the BSF since Saturday so our decision was timely if not for hurtful to all of us. We are looking at what our options are for October and the Board will meet on the 22nd to make those final decisions. The SCTA thanks all of our dedicated racers and fans for their support and we hope to see you in September/October.

Regards,
Scott C. Andrews
SCTA President/Chief Timer