Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway

The famous Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway has been the setting for numerous land speed records. It is located just north of I-80, about 10 miles east of the community of Wendover.

The Speedway offers an ideal environment for automobile and motorcycle speed trials. It is perfectly flat and has a naturally stable surface composted of salty soil. It has been used for serious speed events since the early 1900s.

Several annual events are held at the speedway and give people the chance to see race cars and other vehicles attempting to set records. These events include:

  • Speed Week, held in mid-August, sponsored by the Southern California Timing Association
  • World of Speed, held in mid-September, sponsored by the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association

These are popular events that attract many spectators. However, people need to be prepared before they try to attend one of these events. This is a dry, hot desert environment. The sun glare off of the salt can be intense. At some events, vendors provide food and drink. Camping is not allowed on the salt - you must stay in nearby designated camping areas or hotels/motels in or near Wendover.

Some events offer the opportunity for members of the public to register and then drive on the raceway.

The Bonneville Salt Flats are huge and the Raceway includes only a small area. When people see the flats, many want to rush out and start driving all over the place. That is a mistake. Drivers need to stay on established roads and on the designated raceway. Drivers who try the salt in other areas often get stuck and end up paying an expensive tow bill.

Racing For Speed

Salt Flats

The salt flats' potential for racing was first recognized in 1896 by W.D. Rishel who was scouting a bicycle race course from New York to San Francisco. Rishel returned and convinced daredevil Teddy Tezlaff to attempt an automobile speed record on the flats. Tezlaff drove a Blitzen Benz 141.73 m.p.h. to set an unofficial record in 1914.

The salt flats drew international attention in the 1930's when Utah driver Ab Jenkins lured British racer Sir Malcolm Campbell to compete for speed records on the salt surface.

By 1949, the raceway on the Bonneville Salt Flats was the standard course for world land speed records. On this natural straightaway the 300, 400, 500, and 600 mile per hour land speed barriers were broken.

In the 1960's, jet powered vehicles and names like Craig Breedlove (600.6 mph) and Art Arfons (576.55 mph) captured the imagination of millions. In 1970, Gary Gabolich's rocket car, "Blue Flame", attained a spectacular 622.4 miles per hour.

Since the first speed record attempts in 1914, hundreds of records have been set and broken in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes.

Typically, speed trials are scheduled throughout the summer and fall at the Bonneville Raceway. Most events are open to the public. For more information contact the Bureau of Land Management, Salt Lake District, (801) 977-4300.

Back to top Print this page E-mail this page