Bonneville, UT

Bonneville Speedway is an area of the Bonneville Salt Flats near Wendover, Utah, that is marked out for motor sports. It is particularly noted as the venue for numerous land speed records.

The salt flats were first used for motor sports in 1912, but didn't become truly popular until the 1930s when the Ab Jenkins and Sir Malcolm Campbell competed to set land speed records.

The speedway is marked out by the Utah State Highway Department at the start of each summer. Usually two tracks are prepared; a 10 mile long straightway for speed trials and an oval or circular track for distance runs, which is typically between 10 and 12 miles (16 and 19 km) long depending on the condition of the salt surface. In recent years, there has also been a 5 mile (8 km) long straightway for qualifying slower vehicles.

The straightway is marked with a broad black line down its centre and has several measured mile sections after the second mile. Additional marks and cones indicate the end of the track and the position of timing equipment on the measured mile.

The Bonneville Salt Flats are a 159 square mile (412 km²)[1] salt flat in northwestern Utah. The depth of the salt has been recorded at 6 feet (1.8 m) in many areas. A remnant of the ancient Lake Bonneville of glacial times, the salt flats are now public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It is the largest of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake.


The salt flats are accessible by Interstate 80, which runs along its southern border, and are located on the eastern border of the casino-resort town of West Wendover, Nevada, which is 115 miles (185 km) west of Salt Lake City, Utah. Visitors can reach the flats on the Bonneville Speedway exit. West-bound I-80 travelers have an additional rest area overlook.


The area was named after Benjamin Bonneville, a US army officer who explored the area. The flats were first recognized for their potential as a speed-testing ground by Bill Rishel, who in 1896 had cycled across the area to win a competition run by the newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. In 1907 Rishel and two local businessmen tested the suitability of the salt for driving on by taking a Pierce Arrow onto the flats.[2] A railway line across the Bonneville Salt Flats was completed in 1910, marking the first permanent crossing.[3] The use of the salt flats as a speedway began in 1914 with Teddy Tetzlaff's run there which exceeded the land speed record, although the new record was not officially recognised.[4] Rishel continued to promote the area for racing, and in 1927 Ab Jenkins raced against a train over a 125-mile (201 km) stretch between Salt Lake City and Wendover.[2] Jenkins went on to set up a 10-mile (16 km) circular course on the salt which he used to establish 24 hour records in 1932 and 1933. The area became internationally famous in 1935 when Malcolm Campbell set a new land speed record, making him the first to break the 300 mph (480 km/h) mark. For the next 35 years, nearly all land speed records were set at the salt flats.[5]
The SCTA have conducted SPEED WEEK at Bonneville since 1948.

The area has lent its name to the Triumph Bonneville motorcycle and the Pontiac Bonneville sedan.

Racing and speed records

The salt flats are perhaps most famous for their use as the Bonneville Speedway for high-speed race cars which have achieved speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour (1000 km/h). There are now 3 annual meets where vehicles compete for high speeds on the salt flats - SCTA's Speed Week, held in August of each year, USFRA's World of Speed, held in September of each year, and World Finals, held in October of each year. There is an annual meet held only for motorcycles called the BUB Meet which is usually held between Speed Week and World of Speed.

Bonneville Records are set on a long and short course system. Long course system, vehicles over 175 mph, is a 5 mile track (2 miles to get up to speed, then three one mile timed segments). Short Course system, vehicles under 175 mph, is a 3 mile track (2 miles to get up to speed, then one timed mile). All records set at Bonneville are by a qualifing run (over exisiting record), and the next morning making a return run, these two speeds are averaged for the record. All speeds used in the averaging method must be over the SAME relative mile.



  1. ^ Bonneville Salt Flats/Utah Motorsports The University of Utah
  2. ^ a b Hanna, Tim (2005). One Good Run: The Legend of Burt Munro. 
  3. ^ "The Bonneville Salt Flats". Retrieved on 21 August 2007. 
  4. ^ Radbruch, Don (2004). Dirt Track Auto Racing, 1919-1941. 
  5. ^ "FIA land speed records". Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. Retrieved on 2009-01-01.
Land Speed Racing America
Bonneville Area
Land Speed Racing America
Bonneville from the air
Land Speed Racing America
Track Layout
Land Speed Racing America
Bonneville Sign