Land-speed racing requires the cooperation of Mother Nature and, although Bonneville Speedway has the appearance of a static sheet of salt, nothing could be farther from the truth. The salt flats are fed by an underground brine aquifer, bubbling up groundwater throughout the large watershed that has collected the dissolved minerals from ancient Lake Bonneville. During the cooler months, the salt flats are wet with a few inches of standing water. Evaporation begins to set in by early spring, and by summer the salt is crusted over, and ready for preparation.
As a result of the changes in the salt from season to season, the actual location of the different courses changes each year, as the organizers look for sections that are smooth and dry. Once identified, the salt dragstrips are groomed by teams of volunteers, dragging heavy metal sleds over the surface to increase compaction and smooth out the grainy surface.
Lee Munro is first in line on the short course to pilot the Spirit of Munro and test out the salt. Stifling hot triple-digit temperatures prevail, resulting in thinner air and less than optimum combustion. On top of that, despite the non-stop work of the volunteer army, the salt is bumpy—even slushy in parts.
Once getting the official go-ahead from the scoring tower, Lee twists the throttle and the modern Indian rumbles down the salt, slowly at first, building speed with each successive shift of the transmission. Lee’s first run is 191.861 mph, a great start to the week, but the team knows that the salt will deteriorate.