Rollin’ in the Dust at El Mirage

Land speed racing collageBefore attending Speed Week at Bonneville this past August, I had no idea what El Mirage was. But once the land speed racing bug gets ya, it gets ya bad. So rather then waiting until next year to drive out to Bonneville salt flats again I decided to check out another SCTA event, the 2009 finals at El Mirage dry lake bed.

There is one drastic difference between racing at Bonneville and El Mirage; Salt vs. Dirt. From what drivers say, the dirt is more of a challenge to drive on then the salt. From a spectators perspective, the dirt kicks up a trail so you can’t see the car as it speeds away. Both venues have their draws though. One big draw to El Mirage (for me) is that it’s a mere 2 hours from Los Angeles, just outside of Palmdale, California. You know what that means, my ’55 Studebaker got to get her little tires on the dirt!

And there was a lot of dirt! I’ve never experienced anything quite like rolling onto the dry lake and speeding 4 un-marked miles west to the starting line amidst a flurry of campers’ off-road recreational vehicles. Stude had a good time on the dirt and I think she wanted to race, but for now was merely a spectator.

Studebaker Champions being somewhat of an icon for land speed racing, I was hoping to find some Studebaker racers at El Mirage but didn’t find any this time around. I was also hoping to see Tonya Turk and Gene Winfield get into the El Mirage 200mph club  (dubbed the “Dirty 2’s,”)but this wasn’t the year for that. There was only one 200 mph club inductee (each “track” has their own separate 200mph club) and that was Erik Hansson driving a belly tank roadster at 203.059 beating out the standing record of 194.744 by nearly 9mph!

I missed seeing many of the 148 racing entries and 18 records set this year since I was only there Sunday afternoon. Next year I’ll have to put the whole weekend of November 13-14 on my calendar and catch it all. That will of course be after the 2010 Bonneville Speed Week August 14-20th. Mark your calendars now and I hope to see some of ya’ll on the salt – or the dirt!

Check out all the pictures from El Mirage 2009 at the MyRideisMe gallery and if ya want more info on Bonneville/El Mirage head on over to the SCTA website.

Happy Trails!