Mike Cook’s Bonneville Shootout
Mike Cook’s Bonneville Shootout was established in 2006 and quickly became one of the world’s premier land speed racing events where only the most dedicated hardcore racers come to pit their skills against the ultimate land speed racing challenge to establish FIA and FIM certified land speed records for cars and motorcycles. Participation is by request and only the fastest land speed racers apply (contact Mike to apply). FIA records at the event are sanctioned through the United States Auto Club (USAC) and FIM motorcycle records are sanctioned through the AMA or American Motorcycle Association (see sanctioning menu).
Why Are We Here?
Let’s be clear about what we’re all chasing here. Bonneville Shootout competitors are pursuing specific FIA and FIM certified speed records under various recognized automotive and motorcycle categories and of course the absolute wheel driven land speed record currently held by Don Vesco in the Team Vesco Turbinator and the motorcycle land speed record held by Rocky Robinson in the Ack Attack streamliner.
The Land Speed Record is held by the fastest vehicle under the rules period. The official Land speed Record is clearly defined by the world certifying authority, the Federation Internationale de Automobile or FIA. For the purpose of definition there are three primary categories: special construction (category A), production (category B) and thrust powered vehicles(category C). Motorcycle records are certified by the FIM.
Production records are held by a wide variety of vehicles in various categories primarily defined by engine size. Some Bonneville Shootout competitors pursue records in these categories and while broadly acknowledged in their own right they are entirely separate from and not a part of the official World Land Speed Record. We all agree however, that official land speed records are established by purpose-built unlimited special construction vehicles, either thrust powered or wheel driven.
The current World Land Speed Record is held by Andy Green driving Richard Noble’s Thrust SSC, a thrust powered, twin jet vehicle that set the supersonic record on land at a staggering 763.035 MPH. Thrust SSC achieved a peak speed of 771 MPH or Mach 1.03 accompanied by a confirming sonic boom and worldwide acclaim. Thrust SSC is certified by the FIA as the official Absolute Land Speed Record Holder. The separation between thrust powered and traditional wheel-driven vehicles was sorted out in the sixties and we have all abided by the agreement since then.
Purists and traditionalists have long held that the land speed record must be wheel driven and to a point they have a legitimate argument, but the fastest vehicle is the fastest vehicle period. Hence separate records for three categories have been recognized for nearly fifty years. Purists further argue that wheel-driven cars must be piston powered even though pistons did not establish the original land speed record and indeed the first land speed record was set by an electric vehicle and later even steam powered vehicles.
In a traditional sense piston powered, wheel-driven vehicles have set and held the most records for the longest period of time, but the rules have never specifically stipulated pistons. Most records are also subdivided not only by engine size, but also if the engine uses a supercharger or turbocharger. The idea is keep things fair among competitor classes. However, over in the production category none of the record holders seem interested in wearing the “world’s fastest production crown” and those classes are not as hotly contested as the special construction category.
Donald Campbell’s Bluebird established the first official 400 MPH-plus record with a 403.135 average in 1964. Campbell’s car was powered by a 4,100 HP turbine engine driving the wheels via a direct mechanical connection, thus completely legal, officially certified and fully acknowledged by the Summers Brothers who set out to break it with their piston powered Goldenrod in 1965. Bob (Butch) Summers raised the record to 409.277 MPH with four naturally aspirated Chrysler Hemi V8s. Piston purists have been chasing that mark ever since and no one has ever cast dispersions on Campbell’s official turbine powered record.
In 2001 Don Vesco’s turbine powered Turbinator raised the official wheel-driven land speed record to 458 MPH and that’s the benchmark top Bonneville Shootout competitors are gunning for. To be sure it is possible to set FIA records in lesser categories, but the current Holy Grail is the Turbinator’s unlimited wheel-driven record. The legitimacy of Campbell’s 1964 turbine powered record officially reinforces Turbinator’s claim to the wheel-driven land speed record and contenders will have to exceed it by one percent to claim the title. Moreover, Vesco can still claim the fastest exit speed with a stunning 470 mph blast on the books.
Al Teague broke the Summers Brothers record in 1991 with a 409.986 MPH average establishing an official Bonneville record as well as a FIA certified land speed record, but in the supercharged class. Teague and others have repeatedly penetrated the 400 MPH mark with significantly higher speeds that remain largely unacknowledged because supporting return runs were not accomplished. And lest we all forget, the Goldenrod delivered a scorching 425 MPH one way pass the day after it set its record 47 years ago.
Charles Nearburg, Nolan White, Tom Burkland, George Poteet and others have all established Bonneville records above 400 MPH, some significantly faster and some FIA certified per category, but none with the all important FIA certified two way average exceeding Vesco’s record by one percent. Poteet’s Speed Demon is currently the fastest FIA certified piston powered wheel-driven car by virtue of it 439 mph record.
Burkland’s streamliner currently owns a 417.020 MPHAA Blown Fuel Streamliner Bonneville Record toppling Teague’s old mark and the Poteet and Main Speed Demon has run a 457 MPH one way with a 462 MPH exit speed, but no return run. Hence TEAM Vesco’s Turbinator remains the car to beat for now, but more teams than ever are rallying for an all out assault on the wheel driven record. All of the current contenders are piston powered and a successful endeavor by any one of them will convey extraordinary bragging rights to the victor and the Bonneville Shootout where we expect the next great achievement will occur.
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