Shawn Driver, right, and Matt Blasco work on the final engine tweaks prior to their trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Wet conditions put the brakes on Vancouver Islander’s speed record bid

Sooke car enthusiast Sean Driver heading back to Bonneville in October

It’s been said that “man plans and God laughs.”

It’s a truism that was confirmed in Sooke resident Shawn Driver’s mid-August foray to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where his dream of pushing his 1953 Studebaker to 300 mph was stymied by bad weather.

“We got down there and they’d experienced rain and the track was really bad,” Driver said.

“They tried to get some tracks in shape, but it just wasn’t happening.”

Speed Week officials tried their best, but a wet spring and a number of small storms passed over the dry lake bed, leaving their mark with standing water in the pits and on various parts of the racecourse.

“They had the long course running, but only to the four-mile mark. You had to exit before the six-mile mark because conditions after that were quite bad,” Driver said.

RELATED: Driver likes going fast

“We tried the four-mile, but even there it was like driving on the beach in three inches of sand. You can’t chase high speeds in those conditions.”

Driver made one run, getting to 158 mph, but then allowed his car to be used by other’s who qualified for the lower speed qualifications.

Some other drivers of the faster cars simply packed up and headed for home, noting that, even after several days of drying, wet salt is not fast salt.

And for drivers like Driver, chasing significant performance goals wouldn’t have made much sense on the surface that was available.

But while Driver was disappointed, he’s far from giving up.

“We’ll be waiting to see what the conditions are before we head out, but if all goes well we’ll be heading down to the BNI World Finals on Oct.1,” Driver said.

“But we might just try to go 250 mph twice and set our record that way this year and push it further next year.”

Driver’s reasonable level of caution is fueled by two crashes that happened at Bonneville recently.

“I don’t know if it was the conditions, or what, but one fellow crashed at 350 mph and had to be airlifted out in critical condition. Another crashed at 285 mph and destroyed his car.”

Driver said he will be without some of his pit crew as they had worked with TV personality and female land speed record holder Jessi Combs. She was killed in August when she crashed in Oregon’s Alvord Desert while trying to set a new record. She was reportedly travelling in excess of 400 mph at the time.

“It can be dangerous, but we’re doing everything we can to make it as safe as possible,” Driver said.



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

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