If the pessimists feared that the price of gas and the unsettling feeling about the national economy would dampen the enthusiasm of participants and spectators for the 60th Anniversary of the National Speed Trials, they were dead wrong. The weather was the only justifiable fear. The meteorological and geographic conflicts over the western Rocky Mountains simply made the "Seven Day Forecast" a joke. That's why many racers don't turn in their registration form and non-returnable entry fee until the first day to be reasonably certain they'll get to make at least one run. (Sometimes they register in the middle of the week if they didn't get their automotive tasks completed at home.) Nevertheless, just as many participants send the paperwork and fee in months early in order to save money and get a picture of their car in the treasured Official Speed Week Program.
Speed Week officially began Monday, August 18th and was scheduled to run through Sunday August 24th. Inspection, however, began on Sunday August 17th and was available all week long. Predictably, the inspection lineup was already at least an eighth of a mile long by midday Saturday. Such is the enthusiasm of the cadre of hardcore Salt Flats racers who, for the most part, only get to let it all hang out once a year.
True, Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) club members do have six 1-mile events on El Mirage Dry Lake, an alkali desert in Southern California. Those start in May and end in November. There's also the four-day World Finals in October back on the Great Salt Desert. No matter; even the most casual observer of American automotive activities is aware that when it comes to all-out straightaway contests of speed, the annual late-August Bonneville meet is the premier event.
Fred Dannenfelzer's ride is well-known to Bonneville and El Mirage participants. The DRM R
To say the 2008 Speed Week was a spectacular success is an understatement. There was only the occasional slow down because of a spin-out or the metallic litter of a detonated motor or those pesky cross winds. The latter did cost the racers five or six hours on Thursday afternoon. Winds, however, are only a temporary impediment-it's that dreaded rain that puddles the course and often takes a day or more to dry out. The Powers That Be kept all threatening precipitation far to the east.
Three separate courses were laid out this year-the Short, the Special Short, and the Long. The Short and the Special Courses were five miles long in overall length. The Long Course measured eight miles in overall length. All Bonneville courses begin the same-the first two miles are for the racer to cautiously build up speed. The first set of timing lights is at the one mile marker and the second set is at the two mile; another set is a quarter mile further down. The last set of lights for the Short and Special Course is at their respective third mile markers. In addition to the preceding layout, the Long Course has timing lights at the fourth and fifth mile markers. The timing slip, a precious little piece of paper that goes into the racer's logbook and is treasured for a lifetime, is given to the racer after each run. It reflects his average velocity between mile markers beginning at the two mile.
There are five general categories for automobiles, the ultimate of which is Special Construction. These are the unlimited Streamliners and open-wheeled Lakesters. Next is the Vintage category. It accepts pre-1948 and earlier roadster, coupe and sedan bodies of American manufacture or exact replication. No fenders are allowed on Modified, Fuel, or Gas roadsters. However, rear fenders are required on Street Roadsters which are also restricted to gasoline.