Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image A racer works on his motorcyle during last week’s Test-N-Tune event at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Drivers were able to test their machines on the salt for the first time this year. (photo courtesy Utah Salt Flats Racing Association)

July 11, 2017
Racers hold event but worried about salt flats’ thinning layer

Racing officials are still concerned about a thin layer of salt at the Bonneville Salt Flats and how that may affect a full slate of land speed races this summer.

About 30 cars and motorcycles tested the salt Thursday through Sunday as part of Test-N-Tune 2017, which is organized by the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association.

“The racers were pleased to be out on the salt and be able to work on their vehicles,” said Dennis Sullivan, USFRA president. “One man had added a wing to his car and was able to clock a top speed of 308 mph.”

But Sullivan said salt conditions were thin and rough.

“We had a 3-mile track and the first mile was bumpy,” he said. “I don’t know if they will find a decent, 5-mile section for the major races this year, but that’s not my call.”

Despite the conditions, Sullivan said some racers from California and as far away as Texas attended the event over the weekend.

“The racers are getting afraid of the thin salt,” he said. “Hundreds of people would like to see the salt return. They come to the Bonneville Salt Flats and it is expensive for them.”

He added the salt was hot last week with temperatures well over 100 degrees. “It is usually cooler with the constant evaporation,” he said.

Races at the Bonneville Salt Flats were canceled in 2014 and 2015 because of too much water, but racers were back on the salt last year.

“I think racing conditions this year will be similar to last year,” Sullivan said.

A new salt crust thickness study by the University of Utah has been underway since last year by University of Utah Professor Dr. Brenda Bowen, director of the U’s Global Change and Sustainability Center and associate professor of geology and geophysics.

The full study is scheduled for publication in 2018.

Sullivan said that Bowen was out on the salt during the event and did some sampling and found a high water table.

“Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know,” Sullivan said.

He reported that during World of Speed last year, Bowen drilled 72 holes and found the thickness of salt at a maximum of 2 inches down to as thin as 1/16th inch.

“Those samples were in the same spots of holes drilled back in the ‘60s,” Sullivan said. “The salt thickness back then measured from 11 to 18 inches.”

Racing officials say events are always subject to cancellation because of poor surface conditions, but for now it’s full speed ahead.

Speed Week, organized by SCTA, will run Aug.12-18. Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials is set for Aug. 26-31. World of Speed Racing is scheduled for Sept. 15-18, and the Bonneville Shootout is set for Sept. 20-24.

Mark Watson

Sports Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Mark directs all editorial coverage of sports in addition to reporting on a wide range of events from high school football to international racing. He has a wealth of journalism experience, having worked for four other newspapers in the state. Mark grew up in Tooele County and graduated from Grantsville High School and Brigham Young University.

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