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!