Shootout: In Doubt
Today is Thursday AM. The 2013 Top Speed Shootout guys are having to contend with rapidly changing weather forecasts, which has made putting their wallets on the line risky. The problem for them is squirmy logistics. It isn’t exactly cheap for them to haul trailers of carefully-prepped racing equipment cross-country, or to buy no-discount airline tickets, or book motels or the local KOA campground. These guys are in the upper echelon of speed crazies, and most have sponsors to keep happy. To be sure, none of these guys are poor, but each has invested way, way too much in their speed addiction. I liken it to owning a horse. On the grand scale of things, you have to be comparatively wealthy to own and stable a horse. Once you do that, you are by all accounts no longer wealthy.
The salt surface has proven problematic, and a few days ago was deemed unsuitable for high-speed runs in cars. That part of the event was officially cancelled, saving a large group a lot of pointless work and expense. One section of the track, around mile 7, was/is just a bit too soggy to safely support 400 MPH vehicles. It’s not that they would fall through or something – it’s just that when you’re riding the razor’s edge of what a given vehicle can do, you don’t need the track surface changing handling for you.
The motorcycles and streamliners would be able to continue on however, because they are slower and lighter. As of last night, they were looking at an almost completely dry track, with some dampness at mile 7 that was about to dry out with one more day of wind. As of last night, the weather forecast was for heavy overcast and a little light rain for Day 1 (today), and then nothing but sun and still air from then on. So, they delayed runs one day, allowing today to be set-up or prep day. Set-up day is where you move all you have to the salt near the start of the course, look over the track conditions, carefully double-check everything on your vehicle, hang out with other racers, and try not to drive yourself crazy wondering if you have the myriad combination of adjustments right for the day ahead.
I can tell you, anyone with talent and drive can dig out 95% of what a vehicle is capable of, given enough smarts, effort, willingness to experiment, and time. Each and every one of these guys at the Top Speed Shootout has dedicated himself to finding and producing 110% of what their ride is capable of. That sounds nonsensical, but really, you’re trying to ride herd on a weave of constantly changing dynamics, not one of which can be left untended. That’s what separates these guys from the rest of the pack. That razor’s edge of performance gets considerably keener once you go beyond a certain point. Mess up or ignore one adjustment or factor, and you’re either too slow or you break something. The challenge is to figure out what it is that might be holding you back. As a car enthusiast, I think I’ve accumulated a fair bit of knowledge about power development, chassis and suspensions, and aerodynamics. Like racers of all kinds, these folks have a lock on whole areas and factor relationships that I’m not even aware of. This particular group here has a lock on things that most racers have never figured out. I may not hold them in reverent awe, but I do highly respect their dedication and determination to excel and break standing records.
Runs begin tomorrow, Friday, and go through the weekend. This morning, I’m now seeing heavy rains forecast for Sunday, rain heavy enough to swamp mile 7 at the very least. Will they run? Probably. They’ll try to do their thing Friday and Saturday, I’ll bet. Most likely, Sunday and Monday will be show-stoppers. I’m planning to go down there today just to hang out, see what’s up, and check out whatever vehicles have been carted in. Assuming that someone is parked there on the salt, it’ll be a good day. Funny, what makes for a Good Day for this person or that one!
UPDATE 11 AM: Binoculars can be your friend. I was able to see the more than five miles out to the salt, and nothing is there but the scout trailer, so that saves a disappointing 10-mile round trip. The sky spat a little rain for a few minutes, and more is due later, so people look to be playing it safe and bunking in at Wendover for the time being. I’ll be off the computer for most of the day because the heavy overcast is not doing much for the solar system. There’s plenty of reserve, technically, but why push it? Tomorrow, a predicted sunny day, should interesting in one way or another.