Keep Racing Fun- Bonneville Speed Week-2013

Keep Racing Fun

Keep Racing Fun – Bonneville Speed Week – 2013

By Mike Kojima

Keep Racing Fun

Every once in a while we do a behind the scenes story about some of our Motorsports adventures and stuff we do on the road. Although this might look like we’re living the life according to what a lot of our readers think, when you try to perform on a high level, it actually takes a lot of blood, sweat, hard work, and passion to do what we do. We are often too busy making things happen in the Motorsports world to document our adventures but this time we decided to focus on one of our main projects for this year: Editor Chuck Johnson breaking the H/PS world land speed record at Bonneville Speed Week 2013.

Since this was an official MotoIQ project we brought along some of our staff to shoot video of the event and rented a motorhome so we could stay close to the action. I will attempt to write about what I did for this effort but I was only a very small part of the equation.

Chuck Johnson and his wife and contributing editor Annie Sam have spent the better part of their spare time for the last three years building a shell of a Nissan S13 240SX into a car to break a World Land Speed Record and to set a personal gold of exceeding 200 mph. Currently the car is configured for H/PS class which is a stock bodied, non engine swapped production car with a 1000cc to 1500cc forced induction engine. The car can be quickly configured for several other classes which is a cool thing about the platform. Although Chuck and Annie are quite experienced with mechanics and building race cars, a WLSR car is a pretty complicated machine and it has taken a while to get the car to this point. They have had plenty of help from numerous friends, neighbors and especially Nick Hunter of 5523 Motorsports and John Kuchta of Specialty Cars Fabrication who literally closed their own businesses to volunteer many hours to the project.


Chuck and Annie and Nick Hunter of 5523 Motorsports have been working around the clock for the past 3 weeks getting the car wrapped up. A lot of that problem is my fault. I gave Chuck my super trick ported and flowed SR20VE 20V head that I had been hoarding for the Dog car. Unfortunately, the head had a defective valve job which resulted in low power and 40% leakdown. The car still ran well enough to set a new H/PS record at El Mirage but during the record attempt it burned a bunch of trick Supertech valves due to leaking non concentric seats. Clark Steppler of Jim Wolf Technology volunteered his rare 20V head to replace mine and Nick Hunter burned the midnight oil to do a nice valve job, a clean up of the ports, installing the whole thing, and getting the car running in the Nick of time (bad pun). The day before we were to leave was spent packing our rented motor home at the palatial MotoIQ headquarters with lots of food, camera gear and way too much beer. We also took essentials like a back up motorcycle, a scooter, a big machete and a powerful pellet rifle just in case we ran into a The Hills Have Eyes type of situation on the road.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flats

I know a lot of you think it’s easy to go 200 mph in a straight line on a huge flat surface with nothing to hit but it’s actually quite difficult and dangerous. First, the Bonneville salt flats are not perfectly flat and smooth, they are more like a smoother dirt road but still rougher than the freeway. The salt surface is slippery like dirt with little traction and for the H/PS class the car’s body must remain stock with no aerodynamic alterations at all. This is rather challenging for me being the team suspension guy. If a car loses control, at the least it will spin, at the worst air will get under that car and cause a very violent high speed flipping crash. A lot of guys have bought it out on the salt due to the latter. I had consulted an aerodynamicist before we had left and he told me that the car would conservatively generate at least 700 lbs of lift on the body. Not good for stability at all. What is worse is that we did not have time to implement some of the suspension changes I wanted to do like reducing droop travel and changing the rear ride frequency. However, we were ready to handle any problem that might have shown up at the event. We had enough KW spare parts to do anything from respringing to totally revalving the suspension. Here Chris Marion from KW loads up the tons of suspension stuff we brought with us.

Moto-IQ Bonneville RV

We also loaded up tons of camera gear and camping stuff. Here we are all packed up and ready to go, our home for the next week sits outside the MotoIQ Megashop.

Moto-IQ Trip to Bonneville Salt Flats

We hit the road and immediatly things go sour. We hit amazingly bad traffic and it takes 6 hours just to get to the Fontana area. Meanwhile, Chuck and Annie are getting hours ahead of us after leaving from 5523 Motorsports in the San Diego area.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racing

We drive on into the night. Not stopping at all. The motorhome has a huge gas tank and a bathroom so we can go for hours without stopping.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flats LSR

With a fully stocked kitchen we can make food on the fly as well. This is pretty cool. We just can’t go too fast and the big box is scary to drive in side winds. At about 4am we pull off to the side of the road and take a nap. This is another cool thing about motorhomes you can do this in comfort. In addition to our machete and pellet rifle, we were packing a couple of Glock 9mm’s in case any weirdos decided to try to jack us. Sorry anti gunners but in this day and age it’s better to be safe than sorry. A motorhome on the side of the road at night out of cell range in the middle of nowhere looks like easy pickings to some banditos.

Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racing

At about 7am it’s bright and sunny and starting to get hot so it’s time to hit the road again. I get a text from Chuck, he’s at the salt flats already and gone through tech. He is in line to make a run and we are a few hours out still.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flat Land Speed Racing

Jeff is doing his Abercrombie and Fitch modelling thing.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Land Speed Racing

Christa Kojima still looks pretty happy here. This ended up not being too fun of a trip for her. No one even had much time to talk to her.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flats

Time to eat food on the roll again! Light off the generator and kick up the microwave.

Moto-IQ Project 240SX LSR

You might wonder why race on the salt flats? Well the salt flats are one of the longest flat places to run in the world. You have a 6 mile long straight to try and go as fast as you can. Due to the commercial pumping of brine to produce salt, the salt flats have greatly shrunk in size since their heyday in the 60’s. Because of this the ultra fast record attempts by jet and rocket cars are now run in the Black Rock Desert or Tunisia but most of the attempts to break other speed records are held here. We are attempting to break the H/PS record which is for forced induction totally stock bodied sedans with a displacement of 1000-1500cc.

Moto-IQ Project 240SX Land Speed Racer

We arrive to find that Chuck’s car has suffered a major electrical glitch right on the starting line. The car stalled and won’t restart. We jump right in to try and help get the car back out on track. We think this is something simple…

Project 240sx LSR

The car is putting, not quite starting and pumping out gobs of black fuel smoke. We turn off the fuel pump while cranking to get it lit off and it starts and sort of runs. The engine is blubbering and pig rich like it is in limp mode but the ECU is not throwing any DTC codes. Two master techs and a couple of ME’s are now on deck trying to figure the problem out.

MotoIQ Project 240sx Land Speed Racer

Chris Allen checks the ECU for codes while George Peters tries to start the engine. Both of these guys have years of SR20 experience.

MotoIQ Project 240SX LSR

I note unusually high airflow meter voltage. I also note high ground voltage in the MAF circuit so I rig up an external ground to fix that. We also clean the MAF sensor element. None of this helps. The car is set up to run a big Ford Cobra MAF and we have a friend in Salt Lake City about 150 miles away that has one. We send Sean Rossi out to fetch it.

Moto-IQ 240SX Land Speed Racer

The LSR car engine is a pretty cool piece. The block is a Silvia SR20DET. It is destroked to 1500cc with a SR16DE crank that has been worked over by Castillo Cranks. The bottom end has K1 connecting rods and JE forged pistons. The top end features a rare SR20VE 20V head which is the highest flowing SR20 head ever produced. Its flow rivals that of the Honda K motors. The head has SR20VE N1 cams. John Kuchta of Specialty Cars Fabrication built the intake manifold and surge tank. The exhaust manifold is a twin scroll part built by Full Race Motorsports. A Borg Warner EFR turbo is used with twin turbosmart wastegates controlling boost pressure. The boost is fed into a Spearco water to air intercooler with the charge pipes using a Turbosmart BOV to vent excessive surge pressure on shifts. Nick Hunter of 5523 Motorsports assembled the engine and Jim Wolf Technology did the tuning.

Project 240 Land Speed Racer

The carbon fiber air guide in the front of the car has the signatures from most of the people who have helped on this project in some way or form. There are a lot of people helping as you can see.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racing

Chris Allen in his Polaris RZR. This handy small 4WD vehicle was essential in saving a lot of time. We used it to fetch parts and supplies almost continuously. It was also pretty fun to hoon around in!

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racer

Ever the task master, Chuck establishes dominance over his crew. We hate it when he gets like this…

Project 240SX Lands Speed Racer MotoIQ

Meanwhile Jeff documents the lack of progress and frustration we are experiencing with the car on video. We will have a cool video showing the drama behind the scenes as soon as Alex is done shooting some big movie somewhere and can work on it.

Moto-IQ Land Speed Racing

The good point of the day was that the great Larry Chen of Speedhunters shot the car for a Speedhunters feature. Look for that soon! The bad news was that we had to push the car around to get the shots since it was not running.

Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racin

The rules say that you have to pack up and leave the salt every day by 8 pm. We still don’t know what’s wrong with the car so we go to a truck stop parking lot in Wendover to try and trouble shoot the car further. The sunrises and sunsets on the salt flats are breathtaking, but no one notices.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flats

Sean returns from Salt Lake City with a new airflow meter and we install it in the parking lot and continue to work on the car. The new airflow meter doesn’t solve the problem at all. Meanwhile Chuck locates a Slivia ECU with a JWT Daughterboard from another friend in you guessed it, Salt Lake City, and Sean has to drive out there again in the morning to get it. By this time we have checked all the pin outs to the ECU with a DMM and are getting really pissed. The truckers we are disturbing are probably getting pissed too but they don’t tell us to stop. We are now reasonably sure the problem is in the ECU. For D/SP class you must run a factory ECU although it is legal to reprogram it. Unfortunately, the electronics in a 25 year old ECU can be temperamental.

Moto-IQ Bonneville Salt Flats Racer

Jeff in his usual state, semi clothed and horizontal. Jeff is not too modest about ventilating the ol’ sack and we were often treated to this sort of view and worse. You should see his fringed cut off short shorts. I am not joking about them either.

Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed 240SX

We leave the parking lot and go camp on the rim of the salt flats for the night. The stars at night are amazing and we watch a big meteor shower.

Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed

The next morning we meet up on the salt again. Chris fetches ice and drinks with the RZR. Sean was on his way to Salt Lake City AGAIN to get the ECU and we had another one due to arrive via air freight from JWT the next morning. Sean would have to go to Salt Lake City to pick that one too as Wendover is too small of a town to have next day air morning delivery. Sean must have driven over 800 miles fetching parts that week. What a friend!


Poor Annie, she spent a good part of this day crammed under the dash, helping me with numerous wiring issues. I could not fit or reach around the roll cage and intercooler tank and even Christa could not reach some things. Annie had all the tricks to get into the furthest reaches of the under dash region.

Moto-IQ Land Speed Racer

I think Annie is helping me relocate the main engine harness. My back hurt so bad that my eyes were watering. It was hot in there as well. I took a bunch of pictures of Annie in funny contortions and posted them on Instagram to annoy her.

Moto-IQ Project 240SX Land Speed Racer

Jerry Hoffman from DIY stopped by to help. Jerry is a friend of Chris Allen and they are the guys behind the Megasquirt DIY ECU. Look for some cool Megasquirt projects coming up in MotoIQ. Jerry had a cool oscilloscope dongle for his laptop and helped us identify a few problems, like our battery was not providing sufficient voltage anymore and that our limp mode problem was accompanied by an unexplained voltage drop lasting a few milliseconds. These problems coupled with the fact that the ECU was not storing codes at all lead us to believe that the ECU was at fault.

Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racing 240SX

Jerry showing us the logs of what’s up. That is one cool diagnostic tool. We are not going back to Bonneville again without a Conzult laptop dongle to look at ECU data. This tool would have saved us hours and hours of wire harness probing with a DMM.

Project 240SX Land Speed Racer

Meanwhile Chris Marion adjusts the shocks to some of my new settings I have decided to try based on what happened during testing at El Mirage dry lake. While setting a new class record at El Mirage, the rear of the car was settling too much resulting in excessive lift which was making the car hard to control and we had some tricks up our sleeve to counter that.

Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed

Since we were stuck waiting for parts, Martin and Jeff took a few random shots around the pits. In Land Speed Record Racing there are many different classes so there are many types of different racers out there. Here is a Ferrari racer.

Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Ferarri

You must have your car set on a tarp which helps keep the salt clean. You are not allowed to drip or spill anything on the salt either.

Land Speed Racing Bonneville

The many different classes allow for a diverse range of cars to be competitive, more so than any other form of Motorsports. This makes for a visual treat as you roam the pits.

Land Speed Racer Bonneville Salt Flats

A lakester is a classic form of LSR car, made from a surplus, aircraft drop tank. This is a modern Lakester.

Bonneville Land Speed Racer

I think this car was suffering from driveline problems.

Land Speed Racing Bonneville Salt Flats

Like us, this car was running in one of the classes for production vehicles.

Bonneville Land Speed Racer

There are many classes for bikes as well. This was just one example of what we saw out there.

Salt Flats Land Speed Racing Bonneville

Some of the faster cars were well into the 300 mph range!
Moto-IQ Project 240sx LSR
Late in the day, Sean arrives from Salt Lake City with the Silvia ECU. This ECU has a JWT daughterboard installed so the main processor can be removed and replaced with different chips. We take the chip from the race car which is scaled for the big Cobra MAF and 1000cc Injector Dynamics fuel injectors and put it in the loaner ECU and install that ECU in the car. We cross our fingers and the car starts right up! Yeah we solved the problem! The only issue is that this ECU does not have the control for the VE high rpm cam change over. We will have to wait until the morning when the correct JWT ECU arrives in Salt Lake City. Yes, Sean will have to make another trip early in the AM once again! We are super relieved that we have found the problem.
Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racing
The sun sets on the salt once again. We move to the end of the road and set up camp. Once again no one appreciates the beautiful sunset!
Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed
Chris Allen’s Toybox camper has this awesome fold out external grill and we cooked carne asada. It tasted great. We finally had a good night without too much worry.
MotoIQ Project 240SX LSR
We are busy in the morning. Sean has left before dawn to pick up the ECU from the Fed Ex depot in the Salt Lake City airport. In the meantime we prep the car in anticipation of making a run. Here George Peters sets air pressure. LSR cars all run Goodyear drag racing front runners all around for tires. This is because they are about the only super high speed rated tires available anymore. They are skinny for minimal rolling resistance and are inflated pretty hard because they have soft sidewalls. It is a hassle to set pressures on the car because of the spun aluminum moon discs that are used to reduce drag. Setting air pressure takes about 20 minutes.
Project 240SX Land Speed Racer
Sean returns from the airport with the new JWT ECU and jumps right in to help prep the car by servicing the intercooler tank. The intercooler tank holds about 40 gallons of ice and water and not only keeps the intercooler cold but also serves as ballast to help keep the car down at high speed. Annie installed the new ECU and reassembled the dash and I was busy changing plugs as the old plugs had gotten fouled out with fuel and soot when we were trying to diagnose the electrical problems. To our relief the car started right up on the new ECU as well. About this time I make the discovery that someone has reduced the fuel pressure when we were trying to troubleshoot the car and I misunderstand the correct pressure when I ask Chuck what it is. As a result I accidentally set the fuel pressure too high.
MotoIQ Project 240SX Land Speed Racer
Chuck gets his safety gear together and adjusts his harness. LSR racing has really stringent safety requirements so Chuck has to wear a super thick fire suit and gloves rated for a Top Fuel Dragster. He also has to wear a Hans device and arm restraints. Considering that LSR crashes tend to be very violent and the car is traveling so fast that the fire trucks might be several miles away by the time they roll, the attention to safety makes a lot of sense.
Moto-IQ Land Speed Racing 240sx
We tow the car to the starting line and get Chuck secured in the car. With all of the gear and the containment seat this takes several minutes. Before Chuck leaves the line the officials verify that all of his gear is in place and working.
MotoIQ Land Speed Racing 240sx
Seconds before leaving the line. LSR racing is sort of anti climatic from a getting cool running perspective. The car accelerates quickly out of sight and disappears. Because of the extreme danger, photographers are not allowed on course. Since we have to jump in the chase truck, it’s hard to get photos of the start. The car quickly runs away from the chase truck and we all have a job to do when recovering the car. I guess you will have to wait for our videos to come out to see what it’s like. It was a pretty difficult run, the car almost spun at around 160 mph and the tail of the car was wiggling all the way down. Chuck has balls of steel.
Moto-IQ Bonneville Land Speed Racing 240sx
Chuck waits as we work to recover the car at the end of the track. We have a check list that we must cover according to the rules. One person has to check the engine bay for damage and leaks. Another crew person must check the outside of the car for loose or missing parts. The officials must be radioed immediately if any problems are found as a loose bolt can kill at over 300 mph. Annie recovers the parachute and puts the safety pins back in the fire system.
Bonneville Salt Flats Project 240sx
We have gone 181 MPH on a 167.5 MPH record! On this run we went out at native wastegate pressure of 20 psi to shake down the car. The engine has been dynoed at up to 37 psi so this is just a fraction of its potential power. The car was also down on power and belching black smoke because I had misadjusted the fuel pressure. To get an official record your have to back up your speed the next day and your record speed is the average of the two runs. Your car must be impounded overnight. So we had to take the car directly to the impound area.
Moto-IQ Project Land Speed Racer
In the impound area area you are allowed to work on your car for a maximum of 4 hours that day and 1.5 hours the day of your next run. The car cannot leave the impound area once it enters. We debated whether to turn up the boost to try to hit 200 plus mph on our back up run or not. In the end we decided to stay on low boost and be conservative to get the record for sure. We were confident that we could go much faster. Somehow, during all of the electrical wrestling, our data logging system quit working but after reviewing the in car camera tapes we discovered that Chuck had short shifted into 5th in an effort to stabilize the bucking car. The short shift left the car without enough torque to pull the gear causing the engine to bog the last few miles of the course. The in car tape also revealed the vicious twitching that Chuck had to deal with and his close call with spinning out.
Moto-IQ Project LSR
Chuck and I discuss the setup for the next day. We calculate that my mistake made the car run 7 percent too rich and probably cost about 40 hp. Even though I messed up, I saved the engine from making a run too lean which could have been disastrous. Going at wide open throttle for 5 miles is one of the most brutal tests of a racing engine. We also make a bunch more suspension adjustments to keep the front of the car down and the rear up. We are confident that were are going to go much faster tomorrow even on low boost. The plan is to go out on low boost to get the record, then get back in line at higher boost to attempt to break 200 mph.
Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racinf
Another day gone by…
Bonneville Salt Flats
Feeling positive we can relax into the night. It’s so beautiful to camp out on the playa surrounding the salt flats.
Land Speed Racing Bonneville Salt Flats
Jeff with his ever present beauty lotion. At least we think it’s for dry skin…
Bonneville Salt Flats LSR 240sx
The rules let the cars attempting to back up their record runs to go out first thing in the morning when the air density is the best. We must be at impound at 6am and are allowed 1.5 hours prep time before we get in line to run. We are scrambling in the pits at O Dark Thirty to get everything we need to the impound area. We discover that the alternator has been unplugged during the trouble shooting session and the car has been running off the battery during the last run! This makes for a scramble to charge the battery. We also have to clean the plugs, set tire pressures and service the intercooler water tank. The 1.5 hours disappear quickly.
Moto-IQ Land Speed Racing 240sx
We tow the car to the starting line as the sun rises. On the salt the rules say that all race cars must be towed into position. I am not sure why that’s a rule but it probably has something to do with preserving the salt or the fact that most LSR cars don’t run fans.
Moto-IQ Project 240sx Land Speed Racer
It’s hammer time!
MotoIQ Project 240sx Land Speed Racer
Chuck waits for the go signal on the line.
MotoIQ Land Speed Racer 240sx
We scramble to recover the car at the end of the course. Chuck tells us that the handling is much improved but the car lost boost right after the start line and he only had around 14 psi toward the end. We are worried that we didn’t go fast enough to set the record. We hear on the radio that we had still gone 178 plus MPH, even with no power we still set the record by a wide margin!
Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racing
Since we had unofficially broken the record, we had to go through tech to make it official. In tech they verified our engine size by measuring the bore and stoke through the spark plug hole and checking the cranking volume with a flow meter.
Bonneville Land Speed Racing
A little paperwork and Chuck officially has the new H/PS world record at 178.9 mph. We had broken the old record by 11.4 mph! We were disappointed that we had not gone faster but we still had the record. Not bad for a first attempt.
Moto-IQ Project 240sx Land Speed Racer
We tried to find the cause for our low boost but could not find anything conclusive that was obvious. Since taking apart the turbo system is at least an all day project even in the shop and we were running out of days, we decided to call it quits for this year vowing to return with a fully sorted car next year. Considering the car suffered from plenty of new race car blues and we were 200 hp down from projected power, just think what we will do next year! Now it’s time to have fun. We pack up our pits and head out.
MotoIQ Bonneville Salt Flats
We decide to camp in the mountains above the salt flats. Since we are self contained we can easily just go anywhere.
Moto-IQ Land Speed Racing 240sx
Our camp is beautiful and we spend the rest of the day off roading, mountain biking, barbecuing and shooting the pellet gun.  Good times with good friends.
MotoIQ Bonneville Salt Flats Land Speed Racer 240sx
The next day we hit the road early.  It was our chance to see the sights as we had driven up most of the way in the middle of the night through pitch blackness.  The first part of the road is on hwy 318 which is the route of the Sliver State Classic open road race.  We had run that race a few years back.
Electric gadgets for 5 people need charging!  It was hard keeping everyone charged up on the salt.  With poor cell coverage everyone’s phone was eating power like crazy.  The road back had long stretches with absolutely no cell coverage at all.  You don’t want to break down here.
Jeff and Martin take pics of the scenery with cell cameras.
Bonneville Salt Flats
The narrows are the twisty and dangerous part of the Silver State Classic Course.  They are also beautiful.  You can appreciate this when going slow in a motorhome.  You can also see all of the rocks you will die in if you eat crap here in the Silver State.
Land Speed Racing
Our route home also travels on Hwy 375 aka the extraterrestrial highway that skirts area 51.  We didn’t see UFO’s or anything but we did see this jerky place. The sign looked a little different than what we saw last time we went this way but the dilapidated stand was familiar.  Chuck said the lonely girl working there had the hots for him but he always thinks that kind of thing.  When we asked if the jerky was grey or brown she looked puzzled.  Maybe she was an alien.
MotoIQ Land Speed Racing
We stopped in the Town of Elko or something to cook lunch and stretch our legs.
Moto-IQ Land Speed Racer
Driving through the small town of Las Vegas, we saw this place when we stopped for gas.  We have to visit here during SEMA!
MotoIQ Bonneville Salt Flats
The final stretch home and we even managed to miss traffic.

Well we came and didn’t exactly kick ass but we did manage to smash the previous record.  One of the troubles about this sort of racing is that there is nowhere to test other than El Mirage which is only run a few times a year.  Test and develop we will and we vow that next year we will do our best push the record much higher and break into the 200 mph club. 

The car can easily do it and we can sort out the minor teething problems that plagued us this year.  Our car is probably also pretty good for stuff like the Texas mile and once we have the H/PS record locked in, we will probably go back to 2 liters and run even faster.  We think the S13 has some aero advantages over other cars that should be useful.  We also have the potential to add aero and go for other records at other events.

Stay Tuned!

Written by: Mike Kojima of Moto-IQ