Between the many hot rods and motorcycles at Bonneville Speed Week in Wendover, Utah, this year, there were several diesel-powered vehicles attempting to break land speed records. Diesels are still in the minority at Speed Week, though, and this has its advantages and disadvantages for the competitors. The advantage: For those going for a diesel record, there isn't much competition, which makes the difficult task of breaking a record a little easier. The disadvantage: Diesels aren't as common, so there's less support from other competitors in the form of parts and tuning tips.
No Dieselmax This Year
Last year at Speed Week, the big news was the JCB Dieselmax that set a new record (350.092 mph) in the AA Diesel Streamliner class. It was rumored that JCB was planning a return to the salt this year to raise the record, but the company was unable to get the tires it needed in time for the races. This year, JCB's driver-and the fastest man on Earth-Andy Green, made the trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats to check out the races and receive his certification from the Bonneville 200- and 300-mph clubs.
Records Were Broken
Still riding on a high from a 200-mph record set on the dry lake of El Mirage, Utah, Lynn Goodfellow's Duramax-powered streamliner was working well. Lynn put down an excellent run of 242.343 mph first thing Saturday morning, which was enough to qualify him to break the existing record of 236.030 mph in the B Diesel Streamliner class. Land speed racing rules state that you not only have to exceed the previous record, but you must also do it a second time to confirm the new record. With good salt conditions and cooler air Sunday morning, Lynn backed up his run with a speed of 242.710 mph, which made him the fastest man ever in the B Diesel Streamliner class. Lynn struggled to find more speed during the rest of the week, but the engine just wouldn't spin any faster. After he replaced the ECU on Thursday, he was able to run 251.896 mph to qualify for the same record, and on Friday morning, he backed it up to raise the record to 242.816 mph.
Hypermax Takes On Banks
Perhaps the biggest diesel news came from the Hypermax team that came out from Ohio with Spal's 6.0L Power Stroke-powered Ford Rocket Ranger (page 104). This team has been trying to run on the salt for three years, but the last two times they came to Bonneville, the salt flats were covered in water. Not wanting to take any more chances, they decided to come earlier in the season for this year's Speed Week. The Spal/Hypermax team was going after the 213.580-mph national record in the C Diesel Truck class that was set by Gale Banks Engineering in its Dodge Dakota Sidewinder pickup.
Although the Ranger was running well, the team was unfortunate and qualified three times for a new record without being able to back it up. On Wednesday morning, they had another good run, but driver Max Lagod felt the engine had some problems, so the team pulled the motor and replaced it with a new unit. With the new engine, Max qualified for a record run with a speed of 214.678 mph and was able to back it up on Friday morning with another successful run of 220.201 mph. After a long week and tireless work from the team, the Rocket Ranger finally beat one of Banks' five-year-old records and went home with the national record in the C Diesel Truck class with a speed of 215.091 mph.
Sometimes The Salt Wins
The Spal/Hypermax and Goodfellow vehicles were the only diesels to set new records this year, but others tried. Art Dick and his crew were down again with their Joint Venture truck: a twin-engine, Detroit Diesel-powered Freightliner. Unfortunately, they weren't able to set a new record, and mechanical problems brought their week to an end on Tuesday.
Southern California Timing Association (SCTA) timing official and competitor Jim Dunn ran his twin-turbo, Detroit Diesel-powered Toyota pickup, too. Again, no new records were set, but Jim was able to do a few successful runs in the 170-180-mph range. Lynn's brother, Von Goodfellow, brought his new 12-valve-powered Dakota drag truck out to sort through teething problems and do some licensing runs. Von completed his 150-mph and 170-mph licensing runs and will be able to run at more than 200 mph next time on the salt.