Last September, two hooligans drove their custom-built Ford Crown Victoria onto the racecourse at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and proceeded to do donuts, gouging deep ruts into the salt-crust surface. Naturally, they shared their little adventure on social media. As reckless as their antics were, these two served as useful idiots by getting people talking about the problems that could end racing at the Salt Flats.
Each year, the land speed racing community gathers at Bonneville International Raceway for three major speed trial events in August-October, with Speed Week in August being the largest. The Crown Vic clowns caused surface damage that could potentially endanger racers who might drive over it.
“Going over something like that could make the car unstable, cause tire failure or wheel damage, and the vehicle could lose control,” explains LandSpeed Louise Noeth, public information officer for the Save the Salt Coalition. The non-profit organization was founded in 1989 to protect the Bonneville Salt Flats and to promote its history and motorsports legacy.
This particular vandalism episode was especially egregious, Noeth says, because the background in the photos the perps posted was likely taken near the 5-mile mark, which is the finish line at the end of the long course for 175+ mph cars.
Noeth, who is also a photographer and journalist, has covered salt flat racing for decades and formerly campaigned a 250-mph jet dragster. She says the area, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, does not deploy effective deterrents to such activity. As a result, people drive onto the Salt Flats in their 4x4s, tear up the surface and sometimes get stuck in the sticky mud that lies beneath.
“Over July 4 weekend, the local towing company had to pull six vehicles off the salt,” she says.
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