Bonneville World Of Speed Part II: 200 MPH or Bust!
By Chuck Johnson
Photos by Joe Lu
In our last update, we left off having just set a new Bonneville H/PS land speed record at 184.1 MPH. (Click here to read about part one of our Bonneville World of Speed adventure) On the second of the two record passes, Project 240SX LSR and its 600 plus horsepower 1.5 L engine, had recorded a fastest speed of 191.9 MPH. With more than enough power on tap, our goal of pushing the record to over 200 MPH seemed well within reach.
Since we had pushed the record to over 175 MPH, Project 240SX LSR was now qualified to run on the “long course.” This meant we had several more miles to work with to achieve our 200 MPH goal. Before the next pass though, we dialed more toe in into the rear suspension in attempts to tame Project 240SX LSR’s tail happy attitude.
With more toe in dialed into the rear suspension, we headed off to the starting line. Check out the video below.
While you’re checking out the video, keep an eye on the mountains in the horizon and use them as a frame of reference. In doing so, you’ll begin to understand just how much of a handful a high horsepower rear wheel drive car is on moist, traction-less salt.
Just a month before World of Speed, Bonneville was completely covered in water resulting in the cancellation of Speed Week. Although no longer covered in water, the salt was still super moist and in all around terrible condition. This made accelerating more of a fine ballet requiring a combination of precise footwork and delicate steering wheel inputs. Was the poor traction what caused the spin at 193 MPH though?
Although we spun the car, we still managed to cross the last set of lights at 184.1 MPH. If that speed sounds familiar, it’s because it matches the record we just set earlier in the day. So the question is, did we qualify for a new record?
Without rounding, the speed of our last pass was 184.12438 MPH. Again, without rounding, our record was 184.12483 MPH. In other words, we missed qualifying for a new record by .00045 MPH! We were told by Dan Warner that he had never seen someone come this close before in his 51 years of land speed racing.
Screw the record, I was just grateful to have walked away unscathed from a 193 MPH spin. Unfortunately though, Project 240SX LSR was damaged during the spin. When Project 240SX LSR rotated sideways at over 190 MPH, the pressure build up underneath the hood caused it to buckle. If the hood hadn’t buckled and relieved the high pressure, the car would have likely flipped. The would have been disastrous to say the least.
In addition to the hood, the parachute mount was also damaged. When the parachute deployed during mid spin, its tethers wrapped around the parachute mount and almost ripped it clean off the rear bumper.
After walking away unscathed from the previous day’s 193 MPH spin, I’d be a damn liar if I said I wasn’t concerned about making another attempt at the 200 MPH mark. The team had worked too hard for me to get scared and quit now. Visions of the car hurling through the air like the infamous Racing Beat RX-7 filled my mind as I waited on the starting line though. Finally, when the starting line official gave me the signal, I said “Screw it!” and mashed on the throttle tattooing two black lines across the salt’s surface.
Watch our second attempt at 200 MPH above
Again, at precisely the same speed (193 MPH) the Project 240SX LSR would veer off course and enter a spin. There’s a certain sensation of weightlessness that comes at that moment. Recognizing it, I was able to activate the chute faster this time around.
While reaching for the chute, a string of profanities so vulgar it would have made a sailor blush spewed from my mouth. I was grateful to be alive but absolutely disgusted. I walked away frustrated and helpless. We’d struggled for months to get here and found Project 240SX LSR’s terminal velocity. We had literally built a car so fast, we couldn’t keep it on the ground anymore. Without being reckless, there was nothing more we could do.
With wind gusts over 25 MPH, rain traveled sideways and pelted us in the face. EZ Ups and tarps were flying everywhere. The pits were complete chaos. With lighting now striking in the distance, the crew frantically tour down the pit and hastily loaded up the truck. With one record in the bag, we decided to throw in the towel and head for home.
After examining the videos and consulting with the nerd herd, we hypothesize that the shape of Project 240SX LSR makes it prone rear end lift at speed. Since we must maintain a factory silhouette in the production class, we are left with only a few options to test in hopes of keeping Project 240SX LSR on the ground. On the list of modifications to test are the USDM waffle spoiler and the complete JDM 180SX type X kit. In addition, we’ll be experimenting with the rake of the car as well as the addition of several hundred pounds of weight. To validate our testing we’ll be measuring and logging shock travel using our AEM Infinity EMS.
So did we reach 200 MPH? Unfortunately, we did not this time around. But as the old saying goes, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.