Chasing 400 mph – One Mile at a Time
Bonneville Salt Flats Streamliner
Special thaks to Spectre Performance for extended 2011 Bonneville Speed Week coverage
If you’re following the racing from Bonneville Speed Week, you probably saw the “Maro Special” featured as one of the Baddest Race Cars of Bonneville. Owner Bobby Moore made the baddest list twice when details of his World’s Fastest Corvette hit the web. So if you need details about this nitro- burning all-wheel drive streamliner, be my guest and hit the links above.
This story’s about the quest for 400 mph. Bobby’s quick to point out the many people who helped and continue to help make the Maro Special, a concept started back in 1999, a reality.
One key to running 400 is safety and the Bonneville Salt Flats master of Safety is Lee Kennedy. Lee’s listed as the “Car Technical Co-chair” on the SCTA website, but for this race car he’s been the mile by mile co-pilot of reaching 400 safely.
For previous salt attacks including Speed Week, running fast wasn’t possible. As Bobby said, “Before getting up in the morning, I’d have to start thinking about turning left.” In other words, there was a slight steering glitch… Thanks to Charlie Timmons, Gary Cooper, and the entire Hanna family of craftsmen in Wichita, the mustard rocket’s running “Straight as an arrow” with a new steering design.
So now, with Bobby and the team’s focus on going faster, let’s see what it takes to run some of the fastest speeds at Bonneville Speed Week.
The Plan as laid out by Lee Kennedy:
- Run to the 2 1/4 mile – pull chutes
- Run to 3 miles – pull chutes
- Run to 4 miles – pull chutes
- Open it up and run all the way through to the 5 mile
- Set a record… that’s always the plan at Speed Week!
- Rinse and repeat
Saturday Morning – Run #1: Starting out, Bobby ran nearly flawlessly to the 2 1/4 mile marker simply known on the salt as “The quarter”. During that run, Bobby cruised to 263 mph – the fastest the car had ever traveled and he was only half way down the track. So far so GREAT!!
Saturday Afternoon Run #2: Lee Kennedy cleared Bobby for a run to the 3 mile. Again, nearly perfect, straight running to a 309.097 mph at “the three”. After taking the timing slip to head starter Jim Jensen and updating his log book with the SCTA folks, Bobby was now issued his “Unlimited” license. All the hard work was finally paying off. Bobby was especially excited for engine builder and good friend. Bob Creitz. Creitz was ill and unfortunately stuck back home in Oklahoma. A phone call said, “We did it!” and they heard, “That put a smile on that gentleman’s face.” Bobby and the team were excited, but keeping it cool in the pits… To me, it felt like a pitcher working on a no-hitter.
Salt in your Wounds or Kind Hand of Fate?
From there, things didn’t go so smoothly. On the 4 mile pass, the shaft that turned the fuel pump and oil pump failed. No fuel no fire, so Bobby coasted to a halt and didn’t advance on the weekend’s mile by mile progressions. The breakage, at first seemed like a mighty blow to the seemingly strong run of fortune the team had been enjoying… and believe it or not, their luck actually had continued.
With time on their hands waiting for a new and improved pump shaft from RCD Engineering in California, the crew tore down the motor and found this:
Look closely (click to zoom) at the piston on the far right. That’s a crack big enough to see through, yet the it didn’t break! Demonstrating that Bobby’s livin-right, the crew found 6 of the 8 rods were cracked. 6 of 8! A failure by any one of the rods would have windowed the motor (and probably the body and maybe worse…) and would have not only ended the race week, but could have pulled the chute for the rest of the race year.
Pushing forward, the over-nighted shaft arrived and a trip down the 80 to Salt Lake netted some Melanie Troxel funny car used connecting rods, a thinner head gasket and some advice from racer Mike Strausberg who helped the team soften the air shifts on his bullet-proof transmission.
For Run #5, the hot rod reassembled and ready, but with a slightly different tune up, Bobby was again cleared to run to the four mile and did speeding to 304.539 mph.
Next up, run #6, the “Run for the Roses” where Lee lit the green light for 4 1/2 miles. Bobby raced to a 316.513 mph at 4 1/2 and had an exit speed at the 5 mile at 343.835, his top speed, of the race and ever. 343 at the end of the 5 mile meant Bobby was more than just a little late lifting, but he said, “The run seemed rather soft and I did not see the mph on the dash…” A likely story. (Will video later reveal a WHOOOOO HOOOOOO coming from the driver’s helmet?)
Turns out the last 1 1/2 miles, his fastest ever I’ll remind you, were run on only 4 cylinders. They were on it again if they could get all-holes-lit!
Finally, run #7, running 218 at the 3 mile, it happened… another ahh… stroke of luck??
This time, in the words of Bob Creitz, “The blower belt succeeded to escape” leaving the twisted mess you see above. 2011 Bonneville Speed Week had come to a close.
Bobby summed up Speed Week this way:
“We enjoyed several highs and a few lows when parts would break and chutes would fail, but Lee Kennedy said that next time, I am cleared for a 4 3/4 run under power before I’m allowed the “FULL PULL” thru the 5. The car handles beautifully and is actually easier to drive than the #344 high horsepower/short wheel base Corvette but you need to stay way ahead of the streamliner as things tend to happen at jump-to-light speed. This Speed Week, the on site crew included: Charlie & Linda Timmons, Gary Cooper, John Rasmussen, Rudy Heaton, Jeff Moore, Harold Tuttle, Chuck Looney, Gail Chestnut, Pat Sullivan, Terry & Sherry Geerdes, Peggy Vaught, John Horton, Karen Falconer and George. We had Tom Hanna and Bob Creitz in ready reserve for emergency’s as they were just a ring away. Tom has spent many years getting us to this point and without his tireless efforts, dedication, and sacrifices, we would still be cruising in the 200 mph range. During the speed trials, Tom & Betty Burkland and Rex Svoboda gave us parachute packing lessons as those veterans could see that we were in our sophomore year and needed some real guidance before we made a costly mistake at the 8 1/2 mile pond of wet mud & misery. Several other senior salts also helped out with our effort but in the fog of racing, I missed their non de plums.”
You can see what I’ve been saying all along… the Bonneville Salt Flats have the friendliest racing in the world, but no doubt, it ain’t easy.
As I make friends with more racers and get to know great people like the Maro Special racing crew, I couldn’t be more excited for the next attempt at 400 (Or is it 450?) and my next trip to Bonneville.
Let Bobby and the crew know you’re pulling for them in a comment below.
Before finishing this story, Bobby Moore informed me that, “We’d lost a good man” on August 29, 2011. Bob Crietz succumbed to a 2 year battle with cancer. God Speed Bob!
To learn a little more about Bob Crietz, check out this story about the Creitz and Donovan AA/FD at Cacklefest.com.