Drawing A Line In The Salt: Bonneville Salt Flats

In 1935, Sir Malcolm Campbell put the Bonneville Salt Flats on the map when he became the first person in the world to travel faster than 300 miles per hour. After setting the absolute land speed record, competitors from all over the world started gathering on the Salt Flats every summer to vie for the title of being the fastest person on earth. Thus was born the Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway, and the annual Speed Week competition.

The Salt Flats themselves are wet all year except during summer, and resemble more of a lake than a speedway. But when summer comes, the top inch of water evaporates and leaves behind a bed of salt that condenses to form a surreal landscape. The surface of the salt is great for making high speed runs on, and the feeling of driving on it has been described like that of ice skating because it has only about half the grip that asphalt does. But the conditions are only good for a very limited amount of time.

Each year, there are four major speed festivals on the Salt Flats: Speed Week, the BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials, World of Speed, and World Finals. They are each managed by different institutions, but are filled with hundreds of motorists who all share the same love and respect for the beauty of speed.

Numerous icons of speed tested their mettle on these proving grounds in vehicles of all kinds: gas-powered cars, trikes, jet-powered cars, motorcycles, and more. The Salt Flats are where some of the most advanced, purpose-built racing machines in the world come to vie for the title of being the absolute fastest in the world.

On September 6th, 1956, Johnny Allen set the motorcycle land-speed record on a streamlined Triumph T110 at 214.17 miles per hour. They called the streamliner the Texas Ceegar. In honor of this immense achievement, Triumph began creating a new line of motorcycles—the Triumph Bonneville.

Among some of the other iconic motorcycles that have competed there is the Gyronaut X-1, piloted by Robert Leppan, designed by Alex Tremulis, and tuned by mechanic Jim Bruflodt. The Gyronaut X-1 was remarkable for its visionary streamliner design, and being powered by two Triumph TR6 engines. The Gyronaut X-1 gained the title of The Fastest Motorcycle in the World in 1966 when it averaged 245.667 miles per hour during its legendary run across the Bonneville Salt Flats.