Conditions at the Bonneville Salt Flats continue to deteriorate with each passing year, and 2015 is no different. Testing for the upcoming Speed Week, put on by the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), has been cancelled, and the salt conditions for the August 8th event are questionable, at best.
Readers will remember that last year’s Speed Week was cancelled, after torrential rain flooded the salt flats. This year, the salt layer is so thin that the uneven desert floor is poking through in some spots.
Out surveying the salt flats last week, Russ Eyers from the SCTA told the Salt Lake Tribune that he couldn’t find a 7-mile stretch of land suitable to land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats, with some portions still underwater and others where the salt is mixed with mud.
For those who aren’t familiar with Bonneville, the salt flats provide a unique environment where the ground is exceptionally smooth and flat — ideal for land speed racing. Depending on the conditions too, the salt can also provide an extra hard surface, though salt conditions can vary widely from day to day.
If a 7-mile course isn’t feasible, the SCTA is considering running a short-course event, with a 4-mile course.
The SCTA will decide by July 22nd whether to continue with its August 8th event, in whatever form it may have. If last year is any indication, it is that conditions at Bonneville can change rapidly — that’s the upside for the short-term.
In the long-run though, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Bonneville is losing the conditions that make it ideal for land speed racing.
The the layer of salt at Bonneville has steadily declined from several feet in the 1940’s and 1950’s, to just a few inches now.
Some attribute that to the mineral extraction in the area, which has depleted the overall volume of salt. Others say that climate change is the culprit, with heavy rain and flooding washing out the flats.
Whatever the case may be, the long-term future of the Bonneville Salt Flats seems uncertain for racers looking to set record runs — a huge part of the region’s history. In a decade or two’s time, the iconic racing that takes place at Bonneville may just be a part of history.