Copyright “LandSpeed” Louise Ann Noeth  All Rights Reserved  DO NOT  copy or link with prior written permission.


The 68th running of Speed Week, August 13-19, hosted by the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) was a mixed bag of success. Land speed racing was back after a forced, two-year weather-induced hiatus and the bulging pit area was abuzz with warming engines.

Speed Week 2016 Production Pick-up with a vintage powertrain. Richard Smiths, red ’65 Plymouth Barracuda

The racers were ready, but the salt crust? Not as much. Its bumpy surface was marginally thin in many places leading many to stand down, or depart early. Smaller, lighter machines struggled with what veteran record-setting motorcyclist Joe Amo termed “greasy.”

Going tot he Bonneville Salt Flats and NOT getting up before dawn at least one day is the dumbest thing you could do in Wendiover, Utah during Speed Week 2016. The weather was picture perfect all week, too bad the salt wasn’t the same. Of the 450 pre-entries, nearly half put the speed machine back on the trailer after trying to make a speed run without seat sucking drama. Going to the Bonneville Salt Flats and NOT getting up before dawn at least one day is the dumbest thing you could do in Wendiover, Utah during Speed Week 2016. The weather was picture perfect all week, too bad the salt wasn’t the same. Of the 450 pre-entries, nearly half had put their speed machine back on the trailer after trying to make a speed run without seat sucking drama. Bonneville is like a patient in the Intensive Care Unit that just woke up, needs to get better, and perform serious rehab if land speed racing is to survive.

Going to the Bonneville Salt Flats and NOT getting up before dawn at least one day is the dumbest thing you could do during Speed Week 2016.

Bigger, heavier cars, grappled with vision gutting high-speed vibration. Traction control systems went berserko-wacky and the emanating staccato sound waves wrinkled brows from starting line to shut-off. Belly pans were sacrificed to the recycling bin with regularity.

These amateur racers often demonstrate more resolve than the paid motorsport crowd and don’t give up easily. Bonneville is the largest expanse of serene nothingness with which a person might ever bond. One visit stays with you for a lifetime; it’s cerebral magnetism on overdrive.

Once you’ve had the supreme pleasure of rolling with conviction over pristine saline – never mind setting a speed record – a spark of divinity is exposed and I don’t mean inside a cylinder.

Bonneville racing has been described as “the last vestige of the Wild West” where all the ponies are now under the hood. In addition to Speed Week, there are four other events: World of Speed, Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials, Cook Shoot Out and World Finals, with the occasional private event.

Speed Week 2016 attracted 418 pre-entries, down from 550 in 2013, with an estimated 72 on-site registrations bringing the total to some 490 entries. The final tabulated number will be larger once class changes (eg. gas to fuel) and additional drivers are factored into event totals.

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A modest 68 car records were set all week. Further evidence of feeble salt is found in the unrealized potential: only 2 cars set records above 400MPH: Speed Demon’s Racing Team’s 416 record in Class B/BFS Class and Thompson LSR inked a 411 mark in Class AA/FS. Noteworthy is that the single, smaller Speed Demon turbocharged engine out ran the pair of Thompson’s 2,500HP nitro HEMI V8’s. All engine man Ken Duttweiler’s fault – again. The lone plus 300 record came through the Ferguson family streamliner 349MPH in Class B/FS. A mere 17 records were set in the 200MPH range with all the rest south of that.

George Poteet, driving his brand spanking shiny new Speed Demon recorded Top Time of the meet with a blistering 442MPH one-way run to earn the Hot Rod Magazine Trophy for the 6th straight year in a row. He told me that he is done for the year thanks to jackhammer quivering from the surface that limited his clear vision to 1/4 mile. Consider the speeds he whistles along at, and then decide if you have matching tenacity – it takes a minimum of two runs to set a national record. speed-demon-hrm-trophy-2016

Only 8 other cars ran above 300 MPH, five of which were capable of plus 400MPH speeds — a glaring testament to the lousy surface thanks to years of failed recreational management plans administered by the Bureau of Land Management in this writer’s opinion.

Target 550, the streamliner of Marlo Treit and Les Davenport (driver) came to a controlled stop some 9 miles down course and one-half mile off the active track when both ring slot parachutes failed. Overall, nine drag chutes were completely destroyed in four runs due to the salt crystals being hard enough now to penetrate the nylon chutes.

Smaller, slower cars were the big winners this year with 48 inking a spot in the record books starting with Kaylin Stewart, 18, who became the youngest female to earn life membership in the Bonneville 200MPH Club recording a 224MPH record driving the Jesel Valvetrain Dodge pickup.

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SW2016 Target 550, the streamliner of Marlo Treit and Les Davenport (driver) came to a controlled stop some 9 miles down course and one-half mile off the active track when both ring slot parachutes failed. Treit suspects the canopy size is too small for the 8,000 pound car now approaching the 400 MPH threashold on its way to the magic 550 mark. The inset photo shows the complete shredding of the once perfect parachute. “Whooping” is just as important as going,” once astutely said the late Don Vesco who even in death reigns top dog for wheel-driven cars with his 458MPH set in 2001. Nearly a dozen cars are after his title in 2016, but the lack of solis safe salt has all the fast folks being particularly careful after a 2-year absence due to bad weather coupled with the already super thin crust due to decades of mserable stewardship by the Bureau of Land Management. The racers have engaed elected officals on the state and fedral levels about getting the historic place restored before it is mined bare.

Dan Haugh from Lawrence, Kansas, had as much fun setting his 140MPH record driving a resurrected 1981 Saab Turbo, aka, “The Panda” as Poteet. Arriving home, wife Jay had adorned the front porch colonnade with a bright metallic “Congratulations” banner and inside waiting was a three foot high helium-filled silver trophy flanked with further proffering’s of praise and adulation.

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Then there was Team McLeish Bros. who brought the modified Triumph Spitfire and SilverRod motorcycle streamliner to play with – emphasis on play as these guys are ALWAYS in a good mood! Setting 5 records, 2 car and 3 motorcycle, one used the same Indian engine once used by salt icon Burt Munro (World’s Fastest Indian) but because the record was in another class the venerated New Zealander’s mark remains intact.

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The college-inspired Greenspeed Research Racing Team wins for the best pit improvement — a solar charge station. They wired up a single solar panel to a couple Odyssey Batteries and had silent power for the entire event. All the computers, phones, cordless tools, et al, were topped up effortlessly. The loudest thing in the 200MPH Dodge Ram on veggie oil Greenspeed pit was their neighbor’s generator. The team’s diesel pickup officially became the first vehicle on planet earth to drive past 200MPH on 100% veg oil!

The salt got Congressional attention from a team representing the US House of Representatives and Utah Governor Hebert’s office of Public Lands Policy. While on-site, the group saw irrefutable visual evidence of contributing causes that the LSR community squarely places on the BLM’s shoulders. All were duly amazed at how often the written documentation matched what they were observing — Bonneville’s salt crust that was once measured in feet is now less than an inch.

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Land Speed Racers not only serious about their racing at Speed Week 2016, but invited members of the US Congress to come out from Washington DC for a presentation of disturbing mis-management by the Bureau of Land Management overt ha past 45 years! Here Save the Salt Board member Larry Volk wails away with pick hammer demonstrating what the hardness ought to offer a safe racing surface. There is very little of “primo” salt crust at the moment, with each passing hot, sunny day, the desiccation process adds a smidgen more crust than the day before. Without government intervention, the racing is in red alert mode. With specatacular help from the SEMA staff in Washington, DC, racers have been told a bill will soon be introduced in the House of Representatives addressing the deplorable federal management practices. A couple of days prior, Utah Governor Herbert’s Director of Public Lands Policy, Cathleen CLarke spent 9 hours on the salt familiarizing herslf with current conditions and racer observations. Left to Right: Cam Madsen, Congressman Stewart Mike Swenson, lobbyist Dennis Sullivan, USFRA PResifnet, Utah Alliance Chair Barry McLerren, Congreswoman Mia Love Erin Sills, Save the Salt BOD Gary Webster, Congressman Stewart Gordon Larsen, Congressman Stewart Rick Vesco, racer, Utah Alliance Ron Kirby, Utha Alliance Larry Volk with pick, Save the Salt,

 

An important point to understand about Bonneville racing that it is a family connected by passion, not necessarily DNA, it’s the single most enduring reason land speed racing remains vibrant more than 80 years later. They all recognize that together they can do something phenomenal that is otherwise impossible for the average person.

According to Judy Sights, SCTA Workers Coordinator and “dorm mother” (she has all the room keys) 160 volunteers worked an average

of 10 hours per day for 7 days, some 11,200 hours donated to hold the event, and an additional 2,400 hours of set-up and tear down by 50 volunteers laboring 12 hours per day for 4 days.

“I am looking forward to going back to work where I won’t have to work as many hours in a given day,” said racer turned volunteer Jeff Bryant.

But wait, there’s more! Understand that some 50 people plan Speed Week and World Finals working a minimum of 2 hours per day from mid-March to the moment tech inspection opens in August, about 150 days and 15,000 additional hours. Every year since 1949.Carbiliner-bumper-sticker

From the posted daily run data, the rookie and short courses managed to accommodate a healthy 1,450 runs and 14 spinouts over the seven days. Restricted to 175MPH and slower over two timed miles, the Rookie course has only one timed mile.

Long course (175MPH and above) runs are timed over 3 flying miles and saw only 700 runs completed. Not a lot, but each run does take much longer to start, run and complete. Each time the 26 racers spun themselves out, the track was shutdown until the car was cleared and track was declared safe.

Overall, there was a vehicle spin about every 54th run, with more than 100 turn-outs – racers aborting the run either due to mechanical problems or simply not comfortable with current track conditions.

The latter was doubtless a big factor as the pits were nearly half empty by Tuesday morning with clear evidence of many more packing up, but hanging around to visit.

Salt safety sentinels reported only one injury accident despite conditions. Chris Procter, a motorcyclist from the UK’s Isle of Man went down and broke his leg in four places. The rider and bike are back home, and told SCTA officials he is already making plans to return in 2018.

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When you consider that the Bonneville Salt Flats have hosted thousands of average “nobodys” who became “somebodys” by setting a record with their hand-built speed machine you begin to understand the value of such a place.

Those with a dream built it into reality then proved in front of God and the watching world that their idea had merit. How do you value a chance to live large, to honestly savor personal success?

sw2016-young-honda-engineersHonda_MiyagiThis family-based sport continues to welcomes anyone with a “can do” attitude, encourages innovations in science, technology, engineering and transportation safety. This year, automaker Honda showed up with a streamliner built through it “Young Associate Development Program” beating down one obstacle after another to set a pair of world records by the season’s end.

Grandmothers and granddads have eschewed rocking chairs for racecars driving safely, repeatedly and gloriously in excess of 250MPH. Families thrive here.

From the first race in 1914, racers understood the tremendous motorsports value of the salt beds, they recognized its matchless natural surface as a place where speed

was dependent on the amount of courage drivers found when applying the throttle.

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Note: Because CNN’s Ann O’Neill was either too lazy, too biased to ask, I am volunteering to bail her out from what, in my opinion, is lapse in professional journalistic judgement. Specifically, a correction to the unattributed quote she included in her otherwise fine, well crafted report that denigrated long-time racer George Poteet:

George and three of his Speed Demon crew members arrived before the 2016 Speed Week and labored at least 8 hours per day for 3 days performing all the menial sweat work to set-up the pits, race course and inspection areas.

So now you know where George Poteet was. They all refused to accept any meals, or per diem normally offered by SCTA.

Oh, and Ann dear, would you please fact check me when I tell you that there have been dozens of racing parts George has given away to other racers in need over the years? I am sure those racers would be willing to give you some  facts about how many records got set because of his help. You might also want to fact check how Andy Nish learned to drive a race car – in a roadster George loaned his family. And certainly fact check how much direct assistance he has provided year after year to the various sanctioning bodies.

For that matter, you might ask George himself any number of things; he’s a gracious southern gentleman who would make time for you even if you were a cub content provider from a high school newspaper. Did you even bother to go introduce yourself before you chose to spit on his reputation?

Speed Demon SW 2016 6th straight year winning HRM Trophy George Poteet owner/driver

 

 

May 28, 2016– Speedway, IN – Winners of the 2015 All American Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) National Competition were announced in the IMS Media Center prior to the 100th running of the Indy500. Photojournalist Louise Ann Noeth earned a pair of First-Place awards and an Honorable Mention.

1st | Newspaper Feature Writing
The Inner Workings of Motorsports Sponsorship | Performance Racing Industry

1st | Magazine Technical Writing
Rotors, Pads and Calipers | Performance Racing Industry

Honorable Mention | Photography – Print People
“454 to 0 in Only 2 Miles” | Gearheads For Life

“ The past year has been spent focused on getting the Bonneville Salt Flats restored as well as getting comfortable writing from the business angle for PRI Magazine,” explained Noeth, “Both presented serious challenges to updating skill sets that kept me slightly uncomfortable all year long. I like it that way.”

Noting that PRI Magazine’s Dan Schechner and Meredith Kaplan-Burns are the kind of pros you want editing your work, she added, “They demand clarity, provide comprehensive assignment direction and stay connected throughout the process ensuring that readership is the ultimate winner. And a special “shout out” goes to Tim Cindric who graciously shared his business acumen that set the baseline for the sponsorship piece.

As for the photography nod, she wrapped up with: “Too bad still photos are silent because my shot of Tom Burkland’s Bonneville Streamliner always reminds me of the nervous “ping, ping, ping” of the screaming-hot engine parts cooling under the hand-formed aluminum body work.”

2015 AARWBA win_ 411 spent chutes

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Founded in 1955, AARWBA is the oldest and largest organization devoted to auto racing coverage with members throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. To encourage excellence in the coverage of motor sports, AARWBA media members submit their best work for the annual media contest. Categories are for written, broadcast, online and photographic work. Winners present a true testament to the growth of the sport of auto racing. All magazine and newspaper judging is performed by an independent panel from a major journalism school. Entries — published in the 2015 calendar year — were judged “blind,” no judge was aware of the writer or where the work was published.
Judges: Photography – Prof. Emeritus Susan Fleck, Pulliam School of Journalism, Franklin College, Indiana; Magazine & Newspaper Writing – Prof. Emeritus Jerry Miller, Pulliam School of Journalism, Franklin College, Indiana and AARWBA Contest Chairman

Read the Winning Entries:
Feature Writing — www.landspeedproductions.biz/wp-content/uploads/PRI_NOV2015_Sponsorship.pdf
Technical Writing — www.landspeedproductions.biz/wp-content/uploads/AUG2015PRI_Brakes_edited.pdf
Complete listing of 2015 winners: www.aarwba.org

10 Apr, 2016  |  Written by  |  under Uncategorized

This car announced itself with cacophonous ferocity the first time I brought the engine to life in the LAX airport parking garage. The tight concrete surrounding flung the roaring, growling exhaust notes thundering throughout the facility causing every person to stop, turn and take note of the Hellcat. Much as I lHellcat logooved the sound, the attention was unexpected, unnerving and made me wonder if this was the respect Caesar got when he marched into Rome after some foreign conquest.

The heft of the clutch as I engaged 1st gear made me acutely aware this car demanded my full attention and application of driving skills. This was no ordinary grocery-getter. Thankfully I had dutifully belted in because I had forgotten the Hellcat came shod with Brembo brakes. This cat’s “whoa” was as powerful as its 707HP “go” reminding me with a deserved Leroy Jethro Gibbs smack on the back of the head the first time the 6 pistons grabbed the caliper riveting the car to an immediate stop. OK. Won’t do that again.

Backstory: My daily drive is a C6 Corvette convertible, an engineering model I bought from GMpr when they still did those things. Corvette Centurion Dick Guldstrand promptly installed a cold-air induction system and later my cocky rock-star tech Billy G swapped the exhaust for the GM performance version so you can understand that performance driving is the norm, not the exception in my world. Frankly, if it rolls, flies or floats, I can pretty much operate it; performance is it not what I do, it is who I am.

The Hellcat was mine for a couple weeks, no one else was driving it save World Land Speed Record Holder Al Teague (409MPH) who marveled at its smooth clutch; he who shifted his supercharged HEMI only once every 100MPH on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Can’t tell you where, but will tell you that Hellcat effortlessly goes from zero to 85 and back to zero in just a few seconds. When I was demonstrating the first half of the exercise to Mr. Teague  he expressed audible concern to which I replied, “No worries Al, its got Brembos!” and walloped the brake pedal. Don’t look for the dime sweetheart, we’re on it. In the back seat, all we heard was Mr. Miller laughing lustily.

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Copyright 2016 LandSpeed Louise Photo | click photo to enlarge

The Hellcat mission was to drive up Pacific Coast Highway to the 2.2 mile Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca for the Western Automotive Journalists “Media Days,” a mundane title for a full-day of rapturous track-driving the 5 dozen, or so 2016 new cars provided by gracious and trusting car manufacturers around the globe. These automotive journalist-only events provide a significant, back-to-back “taste test” of same segment vehicles in a safe, orderly method.

Don’t be fooled, we who still know how to drive manual transmission cars (IMO every auto journo had better know how, or they are nothing more than illegitimate posers suckling on the OEM publicity budget teat) drive with satisfying gusto around all 11 elevation-changing turns finding great pleasure straightening out the corkscrew with every lap. My God, I love that track and hope the County Park Commissioners come to their senses about SCRAMP.

The Hellcat never got on the track. Instead I drove into the paddock and parked the well-mannered beast where every testosterone-producing human could see it and headed for the Vipers.

Then it happened. The testosterone producers started in on me about the red key. “You got the red key?” How come you got a red key?” “Wow, someone must really like you to get the red key!” This went on all morning because I had clipped the keys to my belt in order to NOT lose the fob and have to confess to FCA PR leader Scott Brown I was a dunderhead. It was he who explained to me what the fuss was all about — the black key limits HP to 500 while the red key unlocks all the HP nirvana.

Not known for my subtly,  it was “neener, neener, neener” for the rest of the day now wishing the fob glowed. It also bumped up my “momma cat” protectionist respect for Hellcat. If FCA’s Brown trusted me, then by God I better do my best to not get arrested, or have kitty impounded during this fleeting love affair. In short, give the thing back exactly the way I got it, save a bit less rubber and clutch.

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Bless us and keep us, somehow I gotta convince the Hellcat overlords to bring a pride of these cats to the Bonneville Salt Flats to run the USFRA’s 150MPH Club – not as easy as you might think with density altitude sometimes hovering past 7,700 feet.

The exhaust notes are intoxicatingly influential to casting law abiding caution into the inferno. By and large, common traffic partners dare not sniff the Hellcat’s resolve, but every so often along came a testosteronal neanderthal who tried before he cried. Did you know you can break loose the Hellcat’s tires in 3rd gear? From San Diego to Monterey, whenever I wanted to be first, I was.

With every “ride” given, without exception, including my US Navy Seal buddy Joe, Music Composer Mike, Superior Court Judge Ed and Professor Gus, the first word response was the same: “expletive!!!!” followed by a verbal raging river of praise. I tried to give Police Chief John a ride, but the boy was too busy being in charge when I blew through his lovely town. Your loss Johnny boy.

Jordan and his parents doubtless got the best ride and drive as we lifted the eyebrows of dozens of Friday commuters taking a fast lap around their little SoCal town. My 11 year-old co-pilot will never be the same, Hellcat pictures are now on his bedroom wall and Dodge has a loyal fan for life.Hellcat_brembos

The interior was commanding, comfortable with all controls within easy operational reach. I never once felt the need to “get out and stretch” on long mileage runs. The bluetooth phone connection was flawless. The sound system: ditto. The various optional driving modes puts you and Hellcat in just the right suspension set-up.

Niece Emma and Nephew Jack thought I was the coolest Aunt ever driving them all over the Ojai Valley, especially since they both had plenty of foot room in the back seat and squealed with delight when I demonstrated the precision quickness with which Hellcat can change lanes in addition to its grand prix lefty/righty reflexes.

Mercy. I love this car.

What you got here folks is a full-tilt race powertrain expertly fitted into a street machine complete with all manners required to co-exist peaceably within the law. I’d take a Hellcat over a Viper any day. Oh! and so very clever using one of the headlights as a snarky air intake for the supercharger. Bravo for keeping a proboscian breather off the hood. The sticker was a mere $68,000. for something that could flick off a Porsche without missing a rev.

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Copyright 2016 LandSpeed Louise Photo| click photo to enlarge

It was a heavenly interlude with the Hellcat’s powerful purr as just we two motored up the Pacific Coast Highway drinking in the gorgeous rolling surf.

Some women need spa days.

Me? I need more Hellcat days.

 

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21 Mar, 2016  |  Written by  |  under Uncategorized

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Louise Ann Noeth, principal at LandSpeed Productions, has resigned as Chief Judge of the International Automotive Media Competition (IAMCA) effective immediately. Noeth, who for 20 years served as a multi divisional and category judge, stepped into the Chief Judge role in 2014 at the behest of founder Elaine Haessner.

“I’ve never been one to sugar coat anything,” explained Noeth, “This competition has uplifted the entire craft through the years and personally, as a volunteer judge the process induced a sense of “give back” purpose, but now that is all done and it is down to irreconcilable creative differences. The IAMC is going in a direction I don’t care to take.”Full page photo

Back in the 1980’s, Elaine and Walter Haessner created the International Society for Vehicle Preservation (ISVP) to encourage recognition of, and appreciation for, the contributions of self-propelled vehicles. Through ISVP, they undertook a media awards program to encourage accuracy in automotive media believing that “What is news today is history tomorrow.”

The International Automotive Media Competition (IAMC), and its awards, the International Automotive Media Awards (IAMAs) program was designed to recognize excellence against a standard, not against one another. Each entry is judged on its own merit.

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