September 28, 2000

The Bonneville Salt Flats World of Speed 2000
Article and Photos by: John Stahmann

130 miles per hour. Many of us have driven our cars at 130 mph, and many of us have taken our cars beyond the 130 mark out on the freeways. So when my friend Mike told me about the World of Speed and the 130 Club, I thought to myself, "I bet I can do that."

To gain entrance to the 130 Club, one must take their vehicle from a standing start to 130 mph within one mile. At the one mile mark there is a 132 foot trap that takes your final speed. If your speed is over 130 then you have to run again over 130 to back it up. If you exceed 140 at any time, you're disqualified. You have 5 runs to do this. No nitrous is allowed. The 150 Club ups the ante a bit; you have 2 miles to reach 150 but not exceed 160 from a standing start. There is more vehicle preparation involved in this category, but in 20 years only 10 people made the group. Again, no nitrous is allowed.

The plan was to drive my 1998 A4 1.8T and try to get into the 130 Club. I'd had my car out on the Salt Flats before and had a lot of fun, so this wasn't completely new territory. The Bonneville Salt Flats are located about 110 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah (elevation 4200 feet) where a salt bed the spans over 30,000 acres and the surface is so flat that it's possible to see the curvature of the earth. Each year 3 major events are held here -- Speedweek in August, World of Speed in September, and World Finals week in October. World of Speed is the only event that allows street legal cars to be raced on the salt.

Our `group' consisted of myself, Jason Dale, Mike Steed, and our friend Joel. Jason brought out his 1988 Mustang LX 5.0. Jason's car is the former (2 year) record holder in IHRA Pure Stock drag racing. He'll do a 13.21 at 101 mph in the quarter mile at sea level. Mike's car is a 1965 Shelby GT350 and is a current member in both the 130 and 150 clubs. Joel drives a 1986 Corvette that has been mildly modified.

We arrived at the Rainbow Hotel and Casino in Wendover, Nevada on Thursday night. The Rainbow is about 5 miles away from the Salt, and is the best place for racers to stay while out there. We woke up early on Friday morning and headed out. It had been lightly raining overnight, so the air was moist and it was pretty cold, but the salt was dry. We had to set up the pits and have our cars tech inspected, and then we would be ready to make our first shakedown passes. The idea of the shakedown pass is to make sure that everything is running correctly and to check the calibration of your speedometer against the actual time on the salt.

I ran my shakedown pass at 100 mph indicated on my speedometer. When I received my timing slip, it showed that my speed at the mile mark was 97.6066 mph, so my speedo was slightly off while running on the salt - probably due to traction loss at that speed.

The format of the World of Speed is incredibly laid back and there are no real schedules to adhere to. You can basically run when you want to run! After my shakedown, I returned to the pits to make some changes to my car. I was running the Neuspeed K04 B program, which tapers off boost in the upper rpm range to protect your turbo and help prolong engine life. I replaced that chip with a Neuspeed K04A chip, which holds boost longer, hopefully to give me that extra power I would need. I also put some 110 octane fuel in my tank to bring my octane level to 100. I was ready for my first run. Sitting at the starting line the salt seemed to stretch out forever.

Run 1 10:53 am
Quarter mile speed 81.8331 mph
Half mile speed 101.7869 mph
1 mile speed 114.0829 mph

Ouch! Looks like I have a long way to go! My car actually started to get a little floaty at speeds over 110 mph. I had arranged for some narrow wheels/tires for the event, but the company I was getting them through dropped the ball and I ended up without the narrow tires setup.

I went back to the pits and installed MC's intake setup before running again.  Jason Dale also did some unique intake work on his car.

Run 2 12:36 pm
Quarter mile speed 81.1542 mph
Half mile speed 101.4199 mph
1 mile speed  115.5327 mph

So the intake helped a bit.  The next thing I thought I'd try was removing the passenger side headlight to create a ram-air effect.  I knew I'd loose some aerodynamics, but the potential horsepower gains would hopefully make up for it.  So, my headlight came out.  I also replaced my Neuspeed ECU with a Garrett Stage 3 chipped ECU.  I also folded my mirrors in for good measure.

Run 3 2:20 pm
Quarter mile speed 81.6327 mph
Half mile speed 100.5137 mph
1 mile speed  112.8527 mph

So I was faster in the quarter mile, but then when the aerodynamics came into play at high speeds, I actually slowed down!  I replaced the headlight and went back out for another run.

Run 4 3:07 pm
Quarter mile speed 82.0793 mph
Half mile speed 101.6949 mph
1 mile speed  115.6961 mph

Now we were getting somewhere.  Unfortunately, during this run, I actually hit some sort of a limiter at 5200 rpm in 5th gear.  This happened just as I was crossing the 1 mile mark.

So my fastest speed for Friday was 115.6961 mph.  We packed up our pits and headed back to the Rainbow Hotel and Casino for some dinner and to spend the night.

Saturday morning we headed out for the salt again.  Since I had been running the Garrett chip for most of the day Friday, I thought I'd put my Neuspeed K04A chip back in.  My Neuspeed chip was one that had been custom programmed for me by Aaron Neumann, so it ran a little hotter than a normal K04 program, but in terms of `stage' was pretty much a stage 3 like the Garrett chip.  So I replaced the Garrett ECU with my Neuspeed ECU and was ready to run again.

Run 1 10:17 am
Quarter mile speed 83.1102 mph
Half mile speed 101.1918 mph
1 mile speed  116.6710 mph

This was my fastest time so far!  I was improving, but still a mountain away from the target 130 mph mark.  I thought I'd try taping up the front body seams and the upper grille to try and get some more aerodynamics, leaving the lower grilles open for air flow.  For most cars this is good for at least a couple of miles per hour.  We also started getting some headwind at this time.

Run 2 11:01 am
Quarter mile speed 80.6018 mph
Half mile speed 99.5245 mph
1 mile speed  114.1263 mph

By taping up the front of my car, I had actually starved my engine of air, giving me the slowest time yet in the quarter mile.  I removed the tape, and was thinking of what else I could do to get my speed up.  The wind started kicking up at this time, with a headwind at 15 mph and some menacing clouds rolling in, so I decided to just go run.

Run 3 11:36 am
Quarter mile speed 81.2128 mph
Half mile speed 99.9223 mph
1 mile speed  113.4931 mph

The winds really started kicking up, and people were starting to pack up their pits and head out.  This would be my last run for the event.

How did the rest of my group do?  Well, Jason Dale's Mustang 5.0 had it's fastest 1 mile time at 123.7794 mph.  Jason normally runs a 96 mph in the quarter mile at 4200 feet, and on the salt was consistently 7-10 mph slower than on pavement - his best quarter mile on the salt being 88.9592 mph.  Joel's Corvette had it's fastest 1 mile time at around 119 mph, and ended up limping home with a slipping transmission.  Mike's Shelby GT350 had it's fastest 1 mile time at 130.927 mph.  Mike was running on a weak clutch that finally gave out on Saturday.  He has made both the 130 club and 150 club in that car in past years.  A Volvo wagon with a Chevy 350 V8 had it's fastest time of 117 mph, a 2001 Porsche Boxster had it's fastest time of 116 mph, and a Porsche 944 Turbo S (247 hp) made one pass at 131 mph but was unable to back it up with a second 130+ pass and didn't make it into the club.

Who made it?  A 1974 Porsche 914 with a Chevy 350 V8 was trying for the 150 club and with a top speed of 135, they made the 130 club after backing it up.  A 1969 Camaro made the 150 club on Friday and the 130 Club on Saturday.

Since 1980, only about 60 vehicles have made the 130 Club - about half of those being motorcycles.  This year the 11th person made the 150 Club.

Of course, the 130 and 150 clubs aren't all that go on during the World of Speed.  There is a barstool racing category.  Racers make an electric (12V) powered racing barstool.  The barstools race for a top speed at the end of a quarter mile.  The world record barstool speed is about 47 mph!  You should see these things run!  Some are pretty creative in their design.

A gentleman from Michigan brought out his `wheel'.  It's a motorcycle with only one wheel that completely surrounds the rider.  The wheel has headlights, tail lights, turn signals, and even a horn.  It's a street legal cycle in Michigan.  AdrenalineTV was there and interviewed him.

One vehicle looked like a regular streamlined vehicle, but turned out to be powered by a 225 hp 1000 cc snowmobile engine and transmission.  That vehicle ended up with a top speed of 161 mph.

There were pocket bikes, a 45 mph powered skateboard, and of course the 200, 300, and 400 mph cars and motorcycles running as well.  The fastest car at the World of Speed was Gene Burkland's car which ran a 450 mph terminal speed with an average through the timed mile at 438.815 mph which qualified them for the wheel driven land speed record of 409 held by the Summers Brothers in the Golden Rod, whose record has stood since 1963.  Burklands had some problems with their chute and the car ran out 10-11 miles, and ended up sinking into some mud, damaging the car and preventing them from making the back up run.

Overall it was one of the most exciting events I've ever participated in.  It's much more of a challenge than I originally thought.  Now that I've experienced the World of Speed, I doubt any of Audi's current production vehicles for North America could make the 130 club - 225 TT and S4 included.  Think differently?  I plan on returning next year for sure.  Any other Audis going to join me?

Many thanks to Brian Wolff at the Rainbow Hotel and Casino in Wendover, Mike Steed, Neuspeed, Clark Turner, Altiris, Exotic Imports, and the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association.