Bonneville Speed Week

Think You Know Fast? Not Until You Experience Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Events

By Kathleen Clove
August 04, 2023

Discover the art of racing in the salt at multiple competitions in Utah’s saline desert.

Some people feel the need for speed. We’re not talking 80 mph on the interstate speed. More like 400 mph, 2 G-forces velocity. They’re the kind that meet up at the Bonneville Salt Flats to prove their mettle during a month of races. Competitors face off with motorcycles and cars of their own creation, while others use their feet (in a different event, of course). Records are won and spectators are wowed. Just a bit of thrilling history to be made.

Speed Week

From Aug. 5-11, 2023, racers with all kinds of vehicles hit the Bonneville International Raceway in hopes of breaking land speed records at the 75th annual Speed Week. Some drivers test their skills in souped-up production cars, motorcycles and trucks. Others go old school — backyard mechanics who build their own streamlined, experimental ride. It’s not unusual to surpass 200, 300 and even 400 mph.

There’s no corporate pressure or high stakes — beyond personal dreams. The event is run entirely by volunteers, and the competitors from across the world are all amateurs.  

If you’re more of an appreciator than participator, pick up tickets to watch the events. Admission lets you not only stand on the sidelines, you can also walk through the pits, talk to the crews and meet the drivers. Admission is $25 per day, or $60 for the entire week. Pay at the gate, cash only.

Speed Week is part unofficial car show, too. Many spectators bring their hot rods, classic and one-of-a-kind vehicles, and they’re happy to talk shop with you.

What is Speed Week?

Video courtesy of Bureau of Land Management Utah. Read more here.

Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials

Five more days of impressive driving kick off on Sunday, Aug. 27 at the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials. Think you could be a contender? All you need is a bike, a belly full of bravery and a few technical requirements, such as membership in the American Motorcyclist Association.

Competition includes rookies on street and off-road bikes streaking across the salt. Then there are the more seasoned riders going for world records. You may see the fastest land speed race ever, if you don’t blink. The record to beat is 376.363 mph, set by Rocky Robinson at the Bonneville track in 2010.

Races run all day, with no specific lineup or time per motorcycle class. Competitors simply join the staging lane when they’re ready, then go out first come, first served. Competition runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday; 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; and 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday. 

Admission is $25 per day, or $100 for the entire week. Make it a family event: Kids get in for half price. Event times are subject to change due to weather and salt conditions.

Dawn to Dusk Relay

Four reasons people don’t like to run outdoors.

  1. Too much up and down. Hills? Ew.
  2. It’s too far.
  3. It’s too hot. Or cold.
  4. Boring.

Four reasons you’ll love to run in the Dusk to Dawn Relay.

  1. The course is totally flat. Tortilla flat, with a dusting of salt.
  2. It’s a relay, so you only run a portion of the race. It’s nice to share.
  3. It’s at night, so there’s no sun beating down on you. Cool!
  4. Music, stargazing, swag and glow sticks for all. Definitely not boring.

The course is a 2-mile loop along the Bonneville Speedway. Register your team of four, six or eight (or just one if you’re into that kind of thing) to run through the night, literally. The event begins at 8:08 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1. In 10 hours and 55 minutes (until 7:03 a.m.), team members take turns to rack up as many miles as they can. Winners in each category take home a sweet trophy and all the residual salt their shoes can carry.

Bring your support squad (or personal masseuse) to cheer you on. They’ll get to enjoy all the night’s perks as well, including a pancake breakfast, snacks and prize giveaways going on throughout the event.

World of Speed

You’ve got a fast car, is it fast enough to fly away? Drivers in the World of Speed race may not actually leave the ground, but it must feel something like it when they find themselves going hundreds — yes, hundreds — of miles per hour. The current car land speed record was set in 1997 at a whopping 763 mph, reportedly the first land vehicle to break the sound barrier.

For these four days of racing, sponsored by the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, participants must have proven they can reach — and maintain — certain minimum speeds. In recent years, records for the World of Speed event clocked in at 427 mph, then 442 mph. It’s going to be pretty fast.

The motorcycle and vehicle races will be held Sept. 8-10 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sept. 11 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pick up your tickets at the gate. Admission is $20 per day or $50 for the entire event. Admission includes pit access.

World Finals

NASCAR is so ho-hum compared to the World Finals. Sponsored by the Southern California Timing Association, this four-day event includes vintage roadsters and coupes, electric and turbine motors, modified pickups and diesel trucks. There will be all classes of motorcycles, too. 

Similar to Speed Week, racers here are hoping to get their names in the official record book. Held Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, this is the final major racing event of the season at the Salt Flats.

The World Finals are open to the public; buy your tickets at the gate. Admission is $25 for the day or $60 for the entire event. Races begin at 8 a.m. While there, visit the pit area to get a closer look at the vehicles, dream a little and maybe get inspired to sign up yourself.

What to Bring

All of the races take place at the Bonneville Salt Flats, about 120 miles west of Salt Lake City. Bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen — the salt is as reflective as snow and there are no shade trees out there. Bring binoculars, too, as the course is about a quarter mile away. 

Remember to recreate responsibly. You can set up a canopy if you’re spending the day, but bring a tarp to cover the ground under it, to protect the delicate salt layer. Stay on the designated roads at all times; parking is located on the west side of the track.

Where to Stay

There is no overnight camping on the actual Salt Flats, but you can camp on BLM land just north of it. Set up your tent on any dirt pad, but there are no facilities close by. If you prefer showers and all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets, stay in nearby Wendover on the Utah/Nevada border, where there are a handful of hotels and restaurants.

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