The youngest 24 hour endurance race on the motorsports calendar, the Dubai 24 is growing to become one of the pinnacle events for sports car and touring car racing. Look behind the scenes with the Saudi Falcons at this year's event. Narration provided by John Hindhaugh of Radio Le Mans.
DUBAI // This weekend's 24 Hours of Dubai marks the eighth successive year the race has been held and Mohammed ben Sulayem, the president of the UAE Automobile and Touring Club, says it has grown in such a way that it is now second only to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in terms of prestige.
"When it was first done in 2006, it was great to see so much interest, but I remember saying 'I hope it's sustainable'," Ben Sulayem, said yesterday at Dubai Autodrome. "Now when I see it sustaining and growing – and in a healthy way, because you do not want to see a boom and then nothing afterwards – it proves to me the event is something of real quality."
Episode #10 takes us out to the world renowned Bonneville Salt Flats on the western edge of Utah.
This episode focuses on a few of the stories that come to us from the salt out of thousands that exist out there. Speed Week is an even that must be attended at least once in ones life to fully come to grasp the depth and magnitude of this event.
Walking around the pits you see so much effort, camaraderie, talent, and passion that is very tough to describe.
I had a chance to talk with Linhbergh from Speedhunters and he summed up Bonneville best by describing the event as the cleanest place on Earth and I have to agree.
The purity of the salt, the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and the passion exhibited by all make for an event I dream about all year.
During the (1930-1940) era the Bonneville Salt Flats was able to support the weight of 10-ton twin-engine streamliners that roared down the 13.5-mile long Race Courses. The Hot Rods roared onto the salt flats in 1949 with the first Speed Week event and have run every year since. Of course a few years were missed due to weather.
By the early 1960's the pioneers of Land Speed Racing began to notice subtle changes in the surface of the raceway. There were discussions of why the surface seemed to be getting weaker and that this unique body of land was shrinking. We were able to get only as much as 7 miles of decent salt for our courses, if we were lucky. It wasn't long before fingers were pointed at the mining industry on the south side of interstate 80. Owned by Kaiser Chemical, their operations covered some 50 sq. miles of the salt flats.
The once healthy 18 plus inches of salt had become so fragile that the Race Courses had to be moved farther and farther east. Running on the long International Race Course was no longer possible. Reilly Industries was forcing water through canals crisscrossing the flats into their evaporation ponds from which potash was extracted. It was estimated that the process was taking an estimated 850,000 tons of salt from the flats each year.
The Lay down Project was to reverse the process by pumping brine water back onto the salt flats at the rate of 1.5 million tons of salt each year for 5 years. The BLM, Reilly Chemical and the Racers embraced the plan. It was a giant step forward with Government and Industry working together. From the beginning of the pumping project racers began to notice changes in the surface.
By the end of the 5-year pumping plan the racers were able to get back to running on the old International Course. Though not as long, there was a noticeable difference in the hardness and durability of the racecourses and on a few occasions we were able to get as much as an 11 mile course.
The potash plant was bought by Intrepid Potash in 2005. The Bureau of Land Management allowed the Lay Down Project agreement to expire when the mining facility changed owners.
While Intrepid Potash has been voluntarily pumping brine back on the lake, the area appears to be deteriorating again.
Barry Newman, reporting for The Wall Street Journal, posted this report July 27, 2011
Automobile magazine president and editor-in-chief Jean Jennings sounded an alarm in her October 2011 column "Today's Agenda: Saving Bonneville's Salt Flats."
Jennings describes the differences in the current replenish effort by Intrepid, in comparison to the work done by Reilly Chemical from 2000 – 2005:
Intrepid's replenishment efforts are on a greatly diminished scale from what is needed and fall far short of Reilly agreed to do.
Intrepid is flooding the Salt Flats in March instead of November, not leaving enough time for the brine to adequately permeate and bolster Bonneville's surface crust, and salt that should be returned to the flats after extrication of minerals is now being bagged and sold by Intrepid to municipalities for road use.