Speedweek - Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Utah is known for radical religious piety, and on the ancient western shore of Lake Bonneville, where the briny water has totally evaporated and left flat terrain, there’s a special kind of fanaticism. Service doesn’t meet every week, and not everyone follows the same scriptures. But here they share the same faith; faith in the divinity of … speed!
Speedweek is the annual gathering of the tribe, where speed devotees make an annual pilgrimage to the fastest racetrack in the world and put their best effort against history. There is no head-to-head racing, there is no stopwatch. Drivers are racing against history–the historical speed precedent set for that engine class. The attention is purely on getting the cars to run at top speed. Everything else is secondary.
There are three courses at Bonneville: the long-course, the short-course, and the special course. Each of them are essentially a straight line marked by black paint. The long-course is for the fastest of the entrants with 5 miles of speed guns and 3 official miles of room to slow down and turn out. The short course and special course only track speeds for the first 3 miles so this is the more common course for motorcycles and cars not trying to break records. For each, there is one starting line and no preset order to lineup, it’s a first come first served system and the wait is usually an hour or more. This is where spectators can get up close to the cars and if there is a social scene during the day, this is the closest thing to it. But the mood and vibe around the starting line is respectful, even subdued. Certainly, the heat and extreme sunlight reflecting off the white ground has everyone rationing their energy output.
Think of Bonneville more as a mad scientist laboratory and Speedweek as less of a festival and more of a rite of passage. It is a place where there is no finish in sight. A place for endless tinkering and trial. And ultimately a place where limits are set only by the failure of imagination.