Record speed feeds ‘salt fever’
Living in the big sky area of Montana, Class of 1975 marketing grad Jimmy Wollenberg is familiar with gorgeous vistas and vast plains. But the unending beauty of the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah was a sight to behold as he suited up and strapped into his modified 1927 Ford roadster at Bonneville Speedway for this year’s 73rd Speed Week 2020.
The Flying Rose Racing crew competed for the first time in August. The salt flats in Utah provide a wide-open raceway, perfect for events just like this.
Wollenberg and his crew set a new world record Aug. 12 in their class by achieving an average speed of 173.429 mph, surpassing the previous record of 164 mph set in 2018.
“This year the salt was really good,” Wollenberg said. “It was hard and really smooth, the best it’s been in a number of years.” Last year, after a torrential rainstorm just days before the race, the flats were too wet, and Speed Week was ultimately a disappointment. The Flying Rose team went home without racing.
In order to break the record, Wollenberg had to first set his qualifying speed above the current record. He ran 181 mph in their qualifying round. The car was then placed in impound where the crew had only four hours to make small adjustments; it remained overnight before attempting a record run the next morning. The speed of the two runs are averaged and must be greater than the current record. In order to spare the engine any damage, Wollenberg hit only 166 mph in his second run, enough to set a new class land speed record.
The back end of Wollenberg’s roadster is made from the shell of a steel 1927 Ford roadster body and houses the custom Chevy 8-cylinder engine. The front end of the car is a hand-fabricated metal body and is decked out with traditional race-car emblems, including a rose with wings on the front, and a large spoiler on the back to provide more grip on the salt track. With only 2 inches of ground clearance, the roadster is designed for speed.
“Myself and some friends built a supercharged race motor to run in a specific class for rear-modified roadsters,” Wollenberg said.
Racing at Bonneville has been a dream of Wollenberg’s for a long time. While studying at UD, he would attend the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix race every October. After graduation, he combined his passion for photography with his love for cars by photographing major races across the United States. A decade ago, he did a photoshoot at Bonneville and said he has had “salt fever” ever since.
Wollenberg has had a love for cars since he was a teenager reading Hot Rod magazine, but he said the chance to actually compete at Speed Week was so much more than he imagined.
“Many people have an interest in cars, but they don’t quite set land speed records.”
“Many people have an interest in cars, but they don’t quite set land speed records,” Wollenberg said.
The Bonneville Salt Flats was the place where, for Wollenberg, big skies met big dreams. He said the team plans to return to the “salt” for Speed Week 2021 and attempt to beat its own record.