100 Years of High-Speed Racing
Humans have been racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats for over 100 years, which seems like a long time in the world of motorsports. The area’s history, however, is much longer and richer. It’s where insane speed records are made and broken and have been for decades, but the future of racing could be in danger.
Internationally Recognized Racing Destination
During Bonneville’s 2018 World of Speed event, a modified 2019 Volkswagen Jetta Sedan hit an outrageous speed of 210.16 miles per hour beating the previous record for its class of 208.472 miles per hour. But what did racing on these flats look like 100 years ago?
Racing in the early 1900s
The Future Salt Lake City Mayor, Ab Jenkins became the first person to ride a motorized vehicle across the salt flats on his motorcycle. He, among others, declared it “The greatest speedway on earth” The first, unofficial world land speed record set at the Salt Flats were by Teddy Tetzlaff. He said, “The smoothness and coolness of the salt surface did not overheat tires.” This lead to several top tire companies testing tires on the Salt Flats and engineering their products based on their findings.
The Effects of Brine Withdrawl for Mineral Production
The Bureau of Land Management Recreational Lands Manager, Gregg Morgan was interviewed by ESPN in 1989 and said:
“We are concerned with the overall loss of salt on the perimeter. The study we completed a year ago, which updates the one we did 14 years ago shows that we are losing 1% of salt from the surface each year. That amounts to 1.6 million tons annually. At that rate, in ten years possibly there will not be enough salt to race on and in thirty years not enough salt to sustain what we call the Bonneville Salt Flats.”
Save the Salt
The Save the Salt Foundation was founded by racers, businesses and community members. It is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect the Bonneville Salt Flats and to promote its history and motorsports legacy. The organization aspires to keep the national, beautiful treasure available for future generations.
In 2011, a number of prominent organizations formed the “Save the Salt Coalition” to help the nonprofit organization achieve its goal. The Coalition is still seeking to restore the Bonneville Salt Flats. The Coalition is working with government officials, mine operators and others to supplement the current salt replenishment activities. In 2014, the Utah Alliance, a Utah-based advocacy group was formed to use its expertise and contacts at the local level to protect this historic place.
The Bonneville Salt Flat’s rich history is amazing to learn about, and if we do our part and become supporters of the Save the Salt Coalition the future will look flatter, saltier and brighter than ever.