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2018: the Challenger 2 is Going to speed week


Happy New Year everyone! 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Challenger 2. My dad, the whiz-kids at Kar Kraft, and some of the best hodrodders California ever spawned built the car over a frentic six-month period in 1968. It took my crew and I a fair bit longer to get it back into shape, but by 2016 we had a 400mph+ AA/FS record, and in 2017 we reached our highest speed ever, 435mph. We seriously considered retiring the car last year, but it seemed like a shame to miss the anniversary, and the whole team felt that higher speeds were attainable. After ruminating on it, we decided that the C2 probably had one more year in her. 

That in mind, I’m pleased to announce that we’ll be returning to Bonneville for Speed Week 2018. The event will take place between August 11th and August 17th. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, and we’ll have access to a better racing surface than we’ve gotten over the last couple of years. We don’t currently have plans to participate in any other events, but as always, we’ll see how things shake out. 

As some of you probably recall, the SCTA’s World Finals event was cancelled last year due to rain. It was devastating news at the time, but it did mean that the streamliner has basically been race ready since September. That said, it’s hard not to tinker, and Valerie and I have made a few modifications and upgrades since then. We completed a more thorough repair of the nose cone, which was damaged during Speed Week (minutes before our fastest run in fact—Terry and Eric actually finished repairing it on the line). We also replaced a large portion of the aluminum belly pan, which had been damaged over time due to salt exposure. Finally, we switched out the previous seatbelt system with a new set from Crow Safety. They make great stuff. 

Along those lines, racing, as I’m sure all of you know, is expensive. We have terrific sponsors, but the beast is always hungry, so we are looking for new partners for our 2018 runs. If you know an individual or company that might be interested in coming on board, please get in touch using our contact page. 

That’s it for now. We hope to see all of you out on the salt this year, but if you can’t make it, we’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with the Challenger 2 here on our website, as well as on our social media channels. Here’s to a fast (and safe) 2018!

2017 Crew Podcast, with Visuals

Our new podcast is here, and this time we enhanced it with visuals from this year's Speed Week event. The main topic of discussion is the crew, and how crucial they are to the project's success. It's worth noting that this conversation happened organically--Danny was speaking off the top of his head. As a result, a few team members didn't get the focus that their contributions merit. That said, hopefully Danny got across the general message that the Challenger 2 is powered by a team of dedicated individuals, not just the driver. 

Audio Update: What Went Wrong on the Speed Week Backup Run, and What's Next

In this podcast update, Danny discusses the full extent of the front engine failure, the condition of the course, and his plans for the SCTA World Finals event in October. If you'd like to see things as they happened, the videos of the unsuccessful backup run are now available on our YouTube channel. 

To listen, click on the play button (the triangle) above. Photo Credit: Valerie Thompson

Speed Week 2017 Audio Update: Friday, August 11th

In this podcast update, Danny discusses his plans for the first day of Speed Week, the time of day he prefers to run, and an unexpected problem the team encountered during today's start-up.  

To listen, click on the play button (the triangle) above. 👍

2017 Q&A Podcast

Our Pre Speed Week podcast is here. Danny answers your questions about superchargers, aluminum panels, his 2017 competitors, and more. Listen below! 

Summer 2017 Update

Danny testing out the 12th iteration of the C2's steering wheel (still not quite right). 

Danny testing out the 12th iteration of the C2's steering wheel (still not quite right). 

I’m happy to report that the upgrades and repairs to the Challenger 2 are proceeding well. Most of the work has been completed here in Colorado, but I’ll be headed back down to California in early July so that the team and I can fully tune the liner prior to Speed Week. Like last year, we’ll be based out of Mike Chrisman’s shop in Santa Ana (thanks Mike!) until we head out to Utah for the events. 

I recently returned from a trip to Montana, where Rex Svoboda spun all of this season’s tires to 520mph. Rex is a great guy, and he’s built the only rig in the United States capable of achieving those speeds. The tests were illuminating, and I learned a great deal about how the tires behave during the acceleration process. It’s interesting (and a little scary) to note that they don’t really achieve their ideal shape until at least 200mph, which may help explain some of the variability we observed in the performance characteristics of the C2 at different points during the runs. Overall, I can say with confidence that I’ll never race an un-spun set of tires on a record pass again, and I recommend that anyone eyeing 400+ speeds pay Rex a visit if they can. 

In terms of the work that has been completed, the drive lines are done, as are the transmissions. Steve Chrisman fixed the rear end, which involved building a new bearing carrier. This version is made out of 7075-T6, which is a significant upgrade relative to the previous iteration (which was destroyed by the broken drive shaft). Terry Hegman was able to repair four of the body panels we lost last year, but four others were beyond fixing and required replacement. I made those myself. They turned out nice, but man was it a challenge. The fact that the original 1960s crew was able to complete the whole car in six months is ever more mind-blowing to me. The panels themselves still need to painted, which will happen once the car gets back to California, along with some touch-ups to the lettering. 

Speaking of the drive shafts, the new safety “hoops” are actually quarter wall steel tubes. The broken shaft that escaped the vehicle really did a number on the car last year, so this feature is being as overbuilt as is feasible. The next thing on the agenda is the addition of fire doors to the body, part of a new SCTA safety mandate. They’ll be flush of course, and held in place by a single zeus button. Obviously I’m hoping that nobody ever has to use them, but if disaster is impolite enough to pay us a visit, they’ll be there. 

I’m often asked what my speed “goal” is, and the most honest answer is simply this: faster than last year. So much depends on the condition of the salt, and we really won’t know what that’s going to look like until we get there. We are increasing the nitro load to 85% this year, which should yield an increase in horsepower, and we’ve made some aero changes that we hope will allow us to transfer that increase to the ground without additional wheel spin. 

On a less technical note, we launched a new wristwatch in collaboration with the Ball Watch Company, the gorgeous Road Master GMT. Made in Switzerland, it’s racing ready with an Amortiser anti-shock system, 100 meter water resistance, self-illuminating micro gas tubes, and a diamond like carbon coating. The third watch off the assembly line will be auctioned in support of Save the Salt, and if you’d like a Road Master for yourself, you can pick one up at authorized Ball Watch dealers later this summer (be sure to ask for the special "Bonneville Edition" NATO strap). 

On a final note, I think 2017 is going to be a Speed Week to remember. I’ll be taking my last big shot this season, and I’m happy to say that among my competitors will be more 400+ capable cars than there has ever been in the history of the sport. George’s new Speed Demon is back, as is the Turbinator, Project 550, Carbinite, the Ferguson car, and several others. It’s going to be the greatest land speed showdown Bonneville has ever seen, so you shouldn’t miss it!

The Challenger 2 Will Return to Bonneville in 2017

First things first—the Challenger 2 will return to Bonneville in 2017. The team and I will be running Speed Week (August 12-18th) and Cook’s FIA Shootout (September 20-24th). As many of you know, I had planned to retire the car after the 2016 season, regardless of the result. That was probably the right decision, but after capturing the SCTA AA/FS record at 406.7mph, the team and I thought ending things now would mean leaving too much of the car’s potential on the table. So we’re going to give it one more try in 2017 before packing things up for good. 

Over the next few months we’ll be attempting to raise enough money to attend both events. As those of you who are racers know, this is very expensive, so finding more great partners will be necessary. We’ll use Speed Week to test some upgrades we plan on making (detailed below) and will also try to bump our current 406.7mph record if conditions allow. We’ll then travel back to the salt for an attempt at the current 414mph FIA record. As always, the overall goal is to become the fastest piston car in history. That is a lofty ambition, and achieving it would require two back-to-back runs over 444mph (the current record holder is George Poteet’s Speed Demon, which has set an incredibly high bar in terms of both performance and consistency). Do I think that’s possible? Yes. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. 

How much more speed does the C2 have in her? It’s hard to say precisely, but during the FIA meet we were going 415mph at the 4.25 mile mark (according to our onboard instruments) when the problem occurred. Official timing starts at the 5, but we were certainly well on our way to the record with 1.75 miles of course left to go. 

Now that we’ve had some time to investigate, I’d also like to explain what we think went wrong during that last run. As best we can reconstruct things, the rear u-joint in the driveshaft broke during the shift between second and third gear. The joint took out the rear track bars, which caused the nose of the rear end to drop. Meanwhile, the driveshaft broke the safety hoops and drove the transmission yoke into the case. It then took out the left rear tire, causing the car to enter into a long slide. The shaft actually exited the vehicle briefly, but then reentered through the side and damaged the breather tank and several more panels. It then broke free again, this time making it more than 200 hundred yards before bouncing to a stop. I was fine obviously, but it was one hell of a ride. 

In order to address this failure, we are planning on upgrading the front and rear driveline assemblies. The previous shafts were 1350 series, so we’re stepping up to the 1480 size. Both transmission and rear end yokes will be made of 4340 and the u-joint cross will be made of 300m. Rear end track bars will be sized up from 1” 4130 to 1.375” 4130. The drive shaft hoops will be redesigned to more effectively retain the shaft should we run into another problem. We also lost eight body panels, the overflow tank, and the left rear air jack. Those are currently being reconstructed. Additionally, we’ll rebuild both rear ends and go through the engines. In short, there is lots to do between now and Speed Week. 

Bottom line—the team and I feel like we’re half finished with what we wanted to achieve. It’s a big goal and a big dream, so we’re taking one more shot at it. As always, thanks to all of you for following along and for your support.