Donna Grey, Shawn Driver and Matt Blasco are ready for a trip to Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats to chase another speed record. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Sooke’s Shawn Driver likes going fast. Really fast.

Driver making his third trip to Bonneville Salt Flats

Shawn Driver is returning to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, and this time he hopes to push his 1953 Studebaker Coupe up to 300 mph.

It will be Driver’s 13th trip to the Salt Flats Speed Week, and the third time he will participate as one of the hundreds of intrepid car enthusiasts from around the world in a quest to qualify for ever-faster speed records.

But a little background is in order.

The Bonneville Salt Flats are a singular location for car enthusiasts and particularly for those who like to go fast. Really fast.

Imagine a landscape so flat that some have claimed they can see the curvature of the planet. It’s so barren that not even the simplest life forms can survive.

People have been coming to this location in Utah since 1912 but these days it’s not just a matter of showing up and hitting the accelerator.

Driver explained the graduated qualifying steps in place during Speed Week.

“When you first get there, you start out as a rookie. You have a ‘Rookie’ sticker on your helmet, and on your first run you can’t go over 125 mph on the three-mile rookie course,” Driver said.

“You have to make the run at the proper speed, deploy your chute and turn off on the turnout road, to show the organizers that you have the skills to pilot a car at those speeds and have control … that you know what you’re doing.”

RELATED: A passion for cars propels Driver

What follows are a series of qualifying licences that allow drivers to next go up to 150 mph, then gradually move to faster-speed classifications.

“Last year we got an A License and right now were qualified to go up to 249 mph,” Driver said.

“This year we’re looking for a AA License that will allow us to go up to 300 mph.”

The next step would be to try to go even faster in future years.

Driver’s partner Donna Gray is a great supporter of Driver’s passion, but admits to a bit of nervousness at the thought of Driver’s quest for ever-faster speed records.

“There’s a part of me that wonders why he wants to do it, but it’s his dream so let’s go for it. We just want to make sure he’s safe,” Gray said.

“The safety protocols they have in place are very strict. The whole car is gone over with a fine-toothed comb. They inspect everything, pull the parachute and check that everything passes tech.”

Add to the fact that once Driver is strapped into the car, he is so securely ensconcedthat he can only move his head. In the center of the passenger compartment two large fire suppression tanks are rigged to fill the car and engine compartment with foam, should an accident occur.

“It’s not without some risk,” Driver said. “Once you hit 200 mph the cars can have a tendency to sway a little and if that goes too far they turn sideways and start flipping. You want to avoid that.”

In 2009, a California man died when his car rolled multiple times. He was reported to have been travelling at 200 mph at the time. Bonneville has been the site of 10 fatal race crashes in its 100-year history.

But the raw courage to get into the car is only part of the story. Success depends largely on the car itself.

“Matt Blasco is the real miracle worker in this project,” Driver said. “He’s the genius behind tuning the car to the point where all of this is possible.”

Blasco, who joined Driver’s efforts in 2017, is no stranger to going fast. In 2017 he won the Drag Week championship in his now 3,500-plus horsepower Dodge Dart (affectionately known as the Dirty Dart).

He’s applied his skill as a mechanic and his knowledge of computer systems to boost the potential of Driver’s car to the next level.

“Matt is really amazing. In the off season, he can be sitting on his couch in Lethbridge and make tuning tweaks on my car remotely,” Driver said.

“He’s definitely someone who you want in your pit at Bonneville.”

Speed Week at Bonneville happens from Aug. 10 to 16.



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Shawn Driver, right, and Matt Blasco work on the final engine tweaks prior to thier trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Shawn Driver’s 1953 Studebaker will be chasing a 300 mph record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. (Contributed)

Shawn Driver in his full safety gear is ready for another run at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Pictured here in 2018, Driver is confident in the safety gear protecting him as he chases ever-faster speeds. (Contributed)

Just Posted

Cycslists were all smiles during ninth Tour de Victoria

More than 2,100 cyclists participated

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after Const. Beckett’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Police investigating incident in Saanich neighbourhood

Neighbours tell Black Press Media that a body has been found, but police remain tight-lipped.

Colwood man takes on Ride to Conquer Cancer for 11th year in a row

Team Finn has raised almost $3 million for BC Cancer Foundation

Langford lizard sighting excites Victoria museum curator

Curator of vertebrate zoology/knowledge explains the spread of the Wall lizard in the region

VIDEO: Langley Ribfest met with protesters

Groups that oppose the event for various reasons plan to be on site each of the three days.

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Discussion on grief and loss between Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper goes viral

The exchange includes emotional question from Cooper, and outlook on grief as a child

Toronto activist calling on federal parties to nominate more black candidates

Fewer than 20 black Canadians have been nominated so far, including some Liberal MPs seeking re-election

Most Read