There came a surprising, unexpected phone call early this year, It was an invitation to join four other women in celebration of the International Day of the Woman. The ladies all work in the automotive and motorsports industry and all that was expected of us was to talk about our daily lives, each a different journey in male-dominated professions.

I’m ready at the drop of a pin to talk up land speed racing, but jabber on about myself? Not so much. It was the same for the other gals as well. Not a mantle we easily picked to carry.

This March 8th gathering took place at the Larz Anderson in Brookline, Massachusetts. It is America’s Oldest Car Collection and while the place carries a man’s name, Isobel Anderson was as good, if not a better driver, than her husband. She would have to be better, think about all the clothing “baggage” a gal was required to wear back her day. And the girl was a society taste-maker to boot, so dressing well was required, not optional.

This live storytelling event was billed as “Women’s Motormouth” A Vehicle of Human Experience and I was privileged to share the stage with  Samantha Briody, Sally Dawson, Dawn Hayes, and Jody Perewitz.

In the audience of some 150 people was Tim Baer, who writes for the the Motorcyclist’s Post.  Tim was kind enough to allow me to post his report here and it includes some short bios of each of the gals. Read his report here: http://www.landspeedproductions.biz/wp-content/uploads/Motormouth2018.pdf

What hit me afterwards was that one of the gals had yet to be be born when I began my motorsports career running around the country racing jet cars in the mid 1970s. Listening to each of these woman was a joy. Every one of them spoke with conviction and purpose, it was clear they enjoyed what they did and when you are happy in your labors, most often you are also good at what you do.

Dawn came to her path through abject tragedy and has stoically taken sadness and brought joy to thousands by teaching them how to safely ride a motorcycle. Sally Dawson owns and operates her own auto repair shop. Guys work for her! Samantha is a service writer at a dealership, who even at her tender young age, has amassed a respectable brain trust of info to get her clients, in and out of the shop deftly. And then there is Jody. Most would be impressed with what this gal does 9 to 5 at her dad’s custom motorcycle shop, but when you mention that she throws a leg over two-wheelers on the Bonneville Salt Flats and has set numerous records. . ., eyebrows rise exponentially.

The message? I think I speak for all of us when I say, ignore the naysayers, if you want it, go get it, whatever the career you desire. Girls, ladies, know this: there isn’t car, bike, or truck that knows what gender is at its controls. The machine will simply respond to input. Be your best and time will take care of the rest.

Carbinliner leaves Bonneville starting line

Age is superfluous at Bonneville. Young or old, it is all the same: wide-eyed wonder of a regal place constantly swirled with a riot of color, cackling thunder ripping out of homebuilt metal magic and the indescribable feeling of being so incredibly lucky to be there, to take part, to bear witness to the heart of motorsport still so pure and so welcoming.

 

You marvel that it exists at all.

That’s what coming to the Bonneville Salt Flats for the first time does to most everyone. It doesn’t matter what you might have read, heard, been told or watched, the real deal is a gargantuan knockout. Some freely admit this while others pretend not to be affected.

Oh, but pity those liars in denial for they rob themselves of pure joy, of being immersed in the saline speed dimension. Such people remind me of some teenagers that are so wrapped up in image and showing off the latest trendy thing that life’s most important parts rocket past them.

Forget the speed machines for a moment and simply consider the place. It is such a place that astronauts use the salt’s splendid immensity and stark, shimmering whiteness as a landmark whilst orbiting the earth.

Such a place that if you get your butt up and out of bed before the sun and manage to be present for the fiery orb’s awakening then you will be treated to unexpected grandeur, a brain-stretching vista that often invokes a dose of humanity humility wrapped up in a personal outpouring of thankfulness.

There is something inviting about being reduced, put in your place, made to understand how stinking small and insignificant you are in relationship to the planet. It made me feel honored to be there and later, it made me very protective of the place which is why I am intensely annoyed with the BLM for not being likewise invested.

If you drive out from Salt Lake City you get a good sense about the place as it requires you cross the salt to arrive at the access point just outside Wendover UT/NV – take your pick there are two of them with the state line painted right down the main drag.

If you have lots of coin, and few brains, you can try to access the salt from the interstate but make sure you have cell coverage or a working CB because when you get stuck you will be stuck like nothing else you’ve ever encountered.

Spinning your wheels only drives the vehicle deeper into the plastic-like mud that has been trapping things since well before the Conestoga wagons got mired. The salt flats are thick in the middle but thin out to practically nothing on the edges.

And yes, it is salt, just like the stuff that comes out of the shaker at home. Taste it. Most everyone does whether they admit it or not.

Driving in the from the south, on Highway 93, is a ‘peek-a-boo’ way to see the salt as the mountains rise and fall giving you only a hint of the place here and there along the road until it opens up and wows you as you near the Wendovers. The most dramatic way for salt virgins is from the West as the Silver Island mountain range blocks the view of the salt until you pass through the Wendovers and take the #1 exit.

sunrise on the salt Sadly, the roadside dramatic reveal has somewhat withered. The immense salt playa has shrunk, the bright white salt that once hugged either side of Interstate 80 is patchwork now, dirty in other spots mixed with the mud, or absent altogether and the ubiquitous sagebrush has moseyed back onto the plain.

I’ve seen this happen in just the past 20 years, but worry not, there is plenty left to astound you and for most racers to try their luck upon. Let’s talk about those racers, those wonderful, marvelous, inventive amateur folk who put on the best damn mechanical circus in the whole wide world.

Know this: You can be one too. Yes. You can earn a time slip driving your own car, truck, or bike at some events. Just try that at Indy or Daytona.

I don’t care if you don’t know a spark plug from a wheel hub, walking through the pits and staging lanes up to the starting line is a visual treat on multiple levels. Watching the speed machines roll off on a run, or flash through the mile-markers is an eye-candy spectacular. Lucky you if you get to see a parachute blossom.

There are hundreds of cars, trucks and motorcycles in race ready form, each the dearly held dream of someone about to face the truth of the timing clocks.

None of these speed machines come to the salt all by their lonesome. Each has a team, a few are big deals, but most are a small gatherings of like-minded speed hopefuls who will be delighted to tell you darn near anything you might want to ask of them.

This is the core of land speed racing, what gives the sport its fantastic edge over every other form of motorized competition on the planet: the people!

Be bold, walk up astarting line aerialnd introduce yourself, ask them about the machine, who designed it, built it, drives it and THEN ask how fast it goes.

This is a welcoming sport in an inhospitable place. Be assured, it experience will last long after you return to “normal” life. If you experience an unexplained sadness or sense of loss, you have been afflicted with “salt fever” and the only way to medicate away the symptoms is to return as soon as possible.

St. Peters, MO – The American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association announced the winners of its 2017 Nationwide Media Contest. Presented for excellence in motorsports journalism, photography, broadcasting and books, the annual contest selects the top three entries for each of the 22 categories.

“LandSpeed” Louise Ann Noeth was recognized seven times: 4 First Place spots, 2 Second Place slots and 1 Third Place nod. All first places were for magazine writing: Feature, News, and a pair in the always-tough Technical categories. Demonstrating her indomitable competitive spirit to delve into several competition segments, her business reporting covered Road Racing and the red-hot emerging Electric Racing. Noeth’s photography showcased three racing sectors: Land Speed, INDYCAR and Drag Racing.

Of particular note, women journalists dispatched all contenders in the Magazine Technical category, swept the online technical category.

“I am well pleased that we gals dominated the Online Technical Report category” said Noeth. “It’s more than simply liking racing, it’s KNOWING racing with all of its nuances and energized competitors that makes for a grand challenge when tackling the tech stuff. Way to go ladies!

And about my action photo sequence pacing Chris “The Golden Greek” Karamesines as he vigorously overcooked his top fuel engine in 3 seconds. My ability to capture the flaming, smoke-belching drama was a fluke imaged on my smartypants phone. All 65 slices were got whilst being bathed in the noxious nitro cascade. This was done with a phone people, a stinking phone, and one so new that I had no idea that keeping my finger depressed on what passes for a shutter button meant the technological beast kept firing. I discovered the images – all in focus – about an hour later rolling through the captures in the NHRA/Gateway press room. What a pro, eh?

To read the winning entries, please click on the links below.

Clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them for full-screen viewing.

NHRA, INDY and Gateway Motorsports Park! I appreciate your support!

 

FIRST PLACE

Magazine Feature

“Rev Up Revenue in the Road Racing Market”
Performance Racing Industry Magazine

Magazine Technical

“Digging Into the Latest Dyno Developments”
Performance Racing Industry Magazine

Online Media Technical Report

“Energy-Efficient Racing: A Blistering Future Pace”
Performance Racing Industry Magazine

Magazine News

“Seven Key Developments in EV Racing
Performance Racing Industry Magazine

SECOND PLACE

Print Photography Action

“Saving the Bonneville Salt Flats”
Save the Salt: SEMA

Online Media Photo-Action

“Top Fuel Saganaki: Destruction in Three Seconds”
www.landspeedproductions.biz

THIRD PLACE

Online Media Photo – People

“Tony Kaanan’s Hot Afternoon Pitstop”
www.landspeedproductions.biz


TOP FUEL SAGANAKI Copyright 2017 Louise Ann Noeth | All Rights Reserved

 

Tony Kaanan’s Hot Pit Stop Copyright 2017 Louise Ann Noeth | All Rights Reserved

 

Saving the Bonneville Salt Flats Copyright 2017 Louise Ann Noeth | All Rights Reserved


20 Jun, 2017  |  Written by  |  under land speed racing, Motorsports


At St Clement Danes church in London on June 19th, 2017, we  sat silently in the pews, and most said  farewell to an Air Commodore of the Royal Air Force, but for me it was  “Vaya Con Dios Desert Witch.”

Out of uniform, she was simply, wonderfully a loyal friend, with which to drink copious quantities of champagne, and explore some beach, woodland, or castle when we were not on some crazy adventure out on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

In September 1997, it was a rag tag bunch of dirty Brits I met on the Black Rock Desert. It was not their fault, even the Queen would look like a bag lady after a few hours out there where the dirt particles measured out at one micron and got into everything whilst sticking out its miserable tongue at any filter, or barrier put in its way.

It was that alkali plain, a frontier remnant tucked into the northwest corner of Nevada where the British ThrustSSC team brought its 54-foot black jet car that looked more like comical, super-sized binoculars than a supersonic speed machine. It promised to be quite a show trying to get those 10 ton rolling field glasses to behave at Mach 1 whilst gulping down 125 gallons of fuel per mile and covering a mile every four seconds.

Led the bombastic force of nature better known as Richard Noble, ThrustSSC came to do supersonic battle with five-time World Record champ Craig Breedlove and his gleaming white Spirit of America, version 3. The smart money was on Breedlove, not Noble’s twin-engine beast.

I was a photojournalist on assignment for Sports Illustrated, and more than a dozen major newspapers and magazines that represented a combined readership of some 15 million.

I didn’t know any of the green-shirts from over the pond. Fortunately, being married to Brit, I knew it would be hard for them to pass up a bar after a hard day’s work, so that’s where I ambushed ’em. Buy a drink, get a quote. Worked a charm.

That’s how I met Jayne the Desert Witch, a strawberry blond who carried herself with quiet grace of one duty bound. As the team’s crack communicator, she juggled, if I recall correctly, at least 6 different radios that communicated with not only the biological unit, aka the driver, but a bevy of SSC crew spread out around the desert attending to the car and its safe operation.

Officially the ThrustSSC Run Controller, Jayne will forever be fondly remembered as the “The Voice of Black Rock” by anyone who ventured out to that forsaken arid wasteland hoping to witness a hard mark in the historical time line.

She discovered that hundreds of curious speed junkies were scattered throughout the desert perimeter watching with rapt anticipation for any high-speed movement. The trouble was there was no radio coverage, this was “Nowheresville, USA” where confusion and frustration ruled the day. The situation gave rise to some mighty fantastic rumors and misinformation.

And here is where I got my first lesson about what Wendy Jayne Millington was made of – she managed to get a hold of the scanner, and citizen’s band (CB) frequency’s used by most all spectators, and took it upon herself to broadcast run updates several times a day from her shipping container turned communications HQ.

It wasn’t long before that voice was beloved by all who heard her clear, concise reports. Rumors came to a screeching halt – if Jayne hadn’t said it, it probably wasn’t true.

Know this: when THRUST SSC earned absolute speed bragging rights after recording a Mach 1.02/763mph average on Oct 15th, some of that success tracked directly back to her.

Spectators made a poster-sized thank you card that they circulated up and down the perimeter road getting signatures and comments of gratitude. It was formally presented – where else? In a bar. Jayne was touched.

She kindly spent a great deal of time answering my many probing questions unruffled giving me clear perspective of her role and team’s missions goals. No umbrella girl here, this gal had skin in the game.

Jayne was in. All in. You couldn’t pull her focus anymore than you could slide Velcro sideways. I managed to get access to that metal box she sat in during a run and marveled at her deliberate, controlled execution of radio communication as she picked up, transmitted and went onto the next microphone with the next report, or instructions. All the while re-positioning the many little magnets on the board next to her that kept track of who and what was where. Call her a one-woman ATC.

When the team went home, Jayne and I kept our friendship going with many a visit back and forth over the next 20 years. I watched and marveled as she steadily rose in rank to Air Commodore, a very cool title that I had to research to figure out its equivalent in the USAF.

When she was the big boss of RAF Boulmer in Northumberland, she gave me a tour of the facility that essentially kept all of the UK skies safe from threat. The underground warren of technology and battle readiness was concurrently overwhelming and comforting. Lets just say, the UK airspace was rather good and safe when Jayne was in charge of Boulmer’s 1,100 staff. You sleep better knowing how many folks are on duty keeping an eye on the skies for bad guys – in the UK and in the USA.

On base, Jayne gave me a halting, nasty frown when I burst into laughter as airmen and women stopped in mechanical mid-step to salute the car we were riding in – complete with little fluttering flags atop the headlamps. I apologized, but reminded her that while she had been saluted for years, this was first for me. All was well when I bought a bottle of “champers” that turned into 3 before the weekend was done.

Her RAF call sign was “Desert Witch,” yet she anything but. Immaculately presented, impeccably polite and eloquent, Jayne was very much a RAF officer, devoted to the job and the people under her command.

Throughout the week, this civilian observed that she earned the respect, never demanded it. And at the grand dinner replete with white table cloths, silver, trophies, port and madera, the girl was every inch saluting material.

She managed RAF Boulmer while it was in great military and political upheaval, which she took in stride, and kept it mighty tidy amidst a maelstrom of change, challenge and chaffing. RAF Boulmer today has Jayne’s fingerprints all over it.

I will be forever grateful to her for the full day tour deep down in the bunker of the tremendous radar facility with ginormous huge, whopping thick steel doors, where they had a “bat phone” hotline to tactical air squadrons. When they let me scramble jets — got to push the button that unleashed holy hell – it was right up there with hanging out with the Martian Rover guys at JPL.

We spent a lot of time walking on the beaches and visiting Dunstanburgh Castle—one of her absolute favorite places on the coastline. We picked wild onions along the beaches and I made fine french onion soup back at her dandy fine digs while she introduced me to kippers.

When Jayne came over to the states, we would often go to Bonneville, or hang out in some grand spot for a few days of socializing. On one road trip from southern California to Bonneville as pit crew for Charles Burnett III who was sorting his land speed licenses in advance of his steam car world record attempt. Trundling through Nevada in a 30-foot motorhome, on a whim, we diverted to the “Extraterrestrial Highway,” aka Area 51.

Jayne had filled the long miles with stories of Red Flag exercises where she had been the RAF lead at Nellis AFB. The “mission” is cooperation among various nations teaching their fliers to play nice with each other in the sky and practicing various battle maneuvers that included lighted tracer dummy bullets.

Parked on the side of the Alien Inn in Rachel, Nevada, for the evening, we met a variety of UFO enthusiasts who proceeded to tell us – with rapt gusto – all about the weird lights in the sky we might get to see.

Jayne was all poker face, but I nearly spit out my Pinot Noir when the guy yells in his best too-tight knicker voice, “See, see, there they are, the aliens are back.”

Of course, it was another Red Flag gig overhead, but who were we to spoil the fantasy?

The next day I was determined to “see” Area 51 for myself and drove that big box coach across scrub desert, up and over hills into the mountain. A pair of stern faced Airmen in a battle-ready camouflaged Hummer stopped us. Jayne was amazed that I could drive the rolling box just as well in reverse and almost as fast. I figured it was best not to get jailed as she’d might have a harder time explaining things than I would.

A few years later, when Jayne the Air Surveillance and Control System Force Commander for the whole of the UK, she once more was responsible for a near fatal wine breach. I was watching the local news on TV at home in California when the anchorwoman starts rolling footage of the London Olympics reporting that rockets were being installed on roofs throughout the city as a safety precaution.

I will give you one guess who did that. When I called her the next day, Jayne was non-nonchalant about the whole thing saying, “I got the idea from you lot in Atlanta.

Of all the military ThrustSSC folks, she is the only one I know that was formally presented to Queen Elizabeth for her remarkable, enduring military service to the commonwealth. A big day for a little girl from Chester.

Every blessed Christmas there arrived the card from Jayne with “Do not open until the 25th” It was how I learned about Heifer International, a charity devoted to ending hunger and poverty that provides needy folks with all manner of farm animals in order to allow them to be self-sufficient. I figure through the years she donated a barnyard full in my name and I now do the same each year for my dear ones.

What started as a bad cough last October, grew more wicked and menacing until the doctors ran out of ideas about how to stop the unrelenting barrage of cancer cells. A resolute spirit who gave a fine accounting of herself in every regard, I salute her and offer this missive a way to grieve, to share a bit about a gal who loved speed attempts just as much I do.

Farewell, Desert Witch

“LandSpeed” Louise

 

Legal Notice: All images herein copyright held by Louise Ann Noeth 2017

May 29, 2017 – Speedway, IN – Winners of the All American Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association National Competition were announced just prior to the 100th running of the Indy500. Entries were judged “blind,” no judge was aware of the writer or where the work was published. The works sent for judging were published in the 2016 calendar year.

FIRST | Magazine Feature Writing | New Age: Powering Today’s Youth Market | PRI Magazine AUG 2016

AUG2016_Youth_PRI

FIRST | Magazine Column Writing | Law & Order: Inside Rulemaking | PRI Magazine April 2016

APR2016_Rules_PRI

FIRST | Photography – People | “Oh No, Not Again” | www.powerperformancenews.com
FIRST | Photography – Print Action | “Velocity Victory: Don Vesco Sets World Record” | 
Position Paper for Save the Salt and Utah Alliance

SECOND | Online – Feature Report | “Slower Going at this Year’s Bonneville Speed Week” |  www.hemmings.com

https://www.hemmings.com/blog/?p=712282

SECOND |Photography – Action | “How to Shred a “Chute North of 375MPH” | www.hemmings.com

https://www.hemmings.com/blog/?p=712282

THIRD | Online – Technical Report | “Supersonic Truth Telling” | www.theengineer.co.uk

https://www.theengineer.co.uk/land-speed-record-progress-from-before-computers-to-after-digitisation/

“There are serious in-roads being made to encourage children to consider motorsports as a career, in addition to simple enthusiasm,” said Noeth providing background on the work. “Those who made it to the top recognize the difficulties made all the more tougher without basic guidelines. That is changing, and youngsters are getting practical help. Rule making is a thankless, essential job from which racers would derive more benefit by simply contributing to the process.

At Bonneville, its hard NOT to get a great shot, but its all for naught unless you can share the moment with other eyeballs. This girl is very grateful to Shawn Brereton at Xceleration Media Group and Dan Strohl at Hemmings for the space and recognizing the hard-charging amateur racers. The cover shot of the late Don Vesco has sadly come to represent the last time land speed racers had a safe, long course upon which to race. At the time, it wasn’t the type of history I figured that I would be recording. The exuberance of the moment is steadily morphing into speed eulogy for the beloved international speedway. ”

The American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) is the oldest and largest organization devoted to auto racing coverage. Founded in 1955 in Indianapolis, AARWBA has 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.

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