The majority of Ferrari owners are wary of salt. Indeed, many have forsworn Ready Salted crisps lest their fingers convey some of the noxious chemical to their beloved one and start the re-cycling process. Government statistics show that of the 7033 Ferraris registered in the UK 2242 (31.8%) were SORN in 2011Q4, no doubt mainly to avoid road salt. Therefore that some Ferraristi choose to cover their cars in the stuff may seem a bit odd.
These are those who race their cars at the Bonneville Salt flats. Most older enthusiasts know about Bonneville as a former venue for World Land Speed Record attempts: the last being Gary Gabelich's 622.407 mph over 1 mile in the rocket-powered "The Blue Flame" in 1970. Now it is better known for "Speed Week" where, like our sprints there is an vast (and bewildering to the outsider) class system for cars and 'bikes of all shapes and sizes. This was introduced to a vast audience when the Top Gear lot went there, raced three cars, got drawn in, took it seriously and actually did a very good job. Also anyone with slightest interest in racing could not help but be captivated by the the film "The Last Indian".
In August we received a Press Release from ACAT - Advanced Clean Air Technologies- Global who had: "Revamped a stock production Ferrari 550 Maranello to break a World Land Speed Record on the Salt Flats at Bonneville for the Southern California Timing Association’s “Speed Week 2012” August 11th–17th".
We don't often post Press Releases as they are usually a bit gushing, nor did we this one but it triggered something about an Enzo racing on the salt and also an F40 which led us to think whether any more Ferraris have raced at Bonneville. Prolonged Goggling produced a vast amount of stuff, some of it via the most involved route. As always, one cannot be totally sure about the accuracy of information gained this way.
One name associated with Ferraris which occurs frequently is that of Bob Norwood, a race driver, creator of interesting cars including P4 replicas and much more. In 1985 he broke a record record in a 308QV he rebuilt from a damaged car. The engine was comprehensively tuned, he also used an electric water pump and removed the alternator to reduce parasitic drag on the engine. The car was lowered and used Volvo wheels mounted with tall thin Ferrari 400 rear tyres. A clever detail was packing the trunk (boot) with ice and modifying the air intake such that the engine now breathed denser air. Norwood finally achieved 170 mph, setting new records for both the F/GT and F/Modified Sports class.
Norwood's next Bonneville project was more extreme. In 1985 he recognized that a 308 could be made into a 288 replica. The first of such 288 GTO rebodies was powered by a 1984 Can Am series engine. First a road car, in 1988 it ran 199.997 mph at Bonneville, briefly holding the class C record. In 1990 the car was refitted with a 512 cu. ins. (8.4 litre) Big Block Chevrolet engine with twin turbos.
Another of Bob Norwood's creations was even more outrageous. It was a front-engined 308 dragster "Funny Car" powered by a turbocharged flat 12 Ferrari engine! It ran 7.0 second runs and 170 mph for the standing quarter mile. In 1989 the car was taken to the Salt, but the meeting was rained off. Norwood himself said it was probably just as well....
The next Ferrari to run at Bonneville was much more conventional. Israeli-born Amir Rosenbaum established a business in the USA which makes air-intake systems and filters for muscle-car enthusiasts. His first motorsport event was in 1989 when he competed in the Virginia City Hill Climb in Nevada. In 2002 he broke the hill record in an F40. Tragically that same year two drivers were killed when they drove off the road. The next year's event was cancelled, so Rosenbaum set to converting his F40 for Bonneville despite never having been there! In Speed Week 2006 he ran 221 mph but scared himself as the F40 was unstable at ultra high speed. He subsequently bought and raced a "streamliner".
Rosenbaum's experience with the F40 at 221 mph must have been terrifying, but sat at my typewriter it's interesting. When launched in 1987 the World's first Supercar was said to have a top speed of 202 mph, the first road car to be capable of exceeding 200 mph. We don't know if this has ever been verfied, but recall an FOC GB member running at the low-mid 190's at a Club airfield sprint some years ago. The F40LM was reputed to have a top speed of 229 mph and presumably remained stable. However the it did have modified bodywork including a proper racing rear wing. It also needed an estimated 600+bhp to do it as opposed to the standard car's 478 bhp. Rosenbaum's car was said to be standard except for minor changes to the intake system and turbos and was clocked at 221 mph, but more on this later.
As far as we can make out the next Ferrari to take to the salt was an Enzo. The same year that Amir Rosenbaum was doing his stuff at Bonneville, Richard Losee crashed his Enzo whilst taking part in a road rally. The car disintegrated and Loosee was badly injured. During his long convalescence he decided to rebuild the car as a salt racer. The major modification was the installation of twin turbos. In August 2010 RLS Racing ran at the SCAT Speed Week at Bonneville. There's was a steep learning curve which included Loosee spinning the car at 195 mph! Some people think the surface of the salt flats is hard whereas its quite soft and the cars wander. Losee said; "One veteran driver in particular gave me the best advice after the spin: ‘Don’t try to correct the wandering the car does on the salt, just think it back into the groove.’” Sounds like it's more akin to running on ice than tarmac.
After experimenting with a different nose, Losee and his crew decided to put the Enzo back to standard except for the Salt Flat tires and wheels, the SCTA-required safety equipment and the twin turbos. In October that same year the they achieved a new Southern California Timing Association World Land Speed Record of 237.871 mph. Unfortunately the very next year the record was to fall to a "1971 Triumph GT6" which raised it to over 300 mph! The Enzo was pretty much how it came out of Maranello but we doubt that anyone working at Canley in 1971 would recognise much of this particular GT6.
This brings us where we started: the ACAT 550M Maranello. In August this year the car ran 207mph and returned a week or so ago for the "World Finals". The team's target was the GT class record of 232 mph. A standard 550M is said to have a top speed of 199 mph. The ACAT car is modified but close to standard, so their August speed was a good effort. In October, driven by owner and ACAT Global CEO Joe Moch, the car topped out at 214.799 mph; a fantastic effort but well short of their goal.
Could the reason possibly be aerodynamic drag increases at something between the speed squared and cubed, say to the power 2.5? Using the (empirical) formula:
If a standard F40 needs 478bhp to reach 202 needed the best part of 600 bhp to do 221 mph. This time, then I reckon Rosenbaum would havees in with 650bhp and 229 mph for the F40LM. The standard Enzo was claimed to have 660 bhp and a top speed of "more than" 217 mph. Losee hit 237 mph and the calculated power requirement of 830 bhp ties in pretty well with his claims of 847 bhp.
If a standard 550M can do 199 mph with 485 bhp, then 535 bhp would be required for the 207 mph Moch reached in his ACAT car in August. In October they exited the course at 214.799, which I reckon equates to approx. 590 bhp. This sounds about right for a tuned normally.phpirated 5.5 litre Ferrari V12 and is close to what was reported for the engine in Prodrive's 550M GT1 car. To achieve ACAT's desired goal of 232 mph I reckon over 700 bhp would be required, impossible without turbocharging especially in the rarefied atmosphere of Bonneville's 1,286 m elevation. Nevertheless their's was a significant achievement.
Bonneville hasn't just been the venue for straight line maximum speed runs. In the 1930s and '40s Ab Jenkins in his "Mormon Meteor" and others such as Britons John Cobb and George Eyston used a circular course to set endurance records. In 1974 Luigi Chinetti Jnr.'s N.A.R.T. attempted the same with a 512M and a 365 GTB/4 Daytona Compeizione. The squad of drivers was incredible with Chinetti himself, US racer Milt Minter, two times F1 World Champion, Indy 500 and Le Mans winner Graham Hill and screen legend, racer and later team owner Paul Newman! Reports have it that the 512M was rather "tired" after a season's racing; occasionally running on a random number of cylinders less than the optimum 12. Later when Chinetti was driving a tyre was punctured by some on-track debris. The tyre shredded the bodywork and removed some oil pipes and that was it for the 512M. However the more rugged Daytona was successful, setting International Class C records at 10 miles (174.763 mph), 500 kilometers (171.255 mph), 500 miles (166.173 mph) and 1000 kilometers (166.445 mph).
Finally, the first reference I could find to a Ferrari at Bonneville was just a pic of a 1962 Superamerica running on the Salt. Llater I found the following information on the RM Auctions' website:
"3309 SA was sold to Phoenix, Arizona Ferrari dealer J.A. Stallings off the show stand in New York by Luigi Chinetti Motors. Wasting no time before enjoying its sparkling performance, Mr. Stallings used the car for hillclimbs before taking it to the Bonneville Speed Trials in 1962, where he was officially recorded reaching speeds over 145 mph, as featured in the November 1962 issue of Road & Track documenting the event."
The car was sold by at RM's Monaco 2010 sale for 2.8 million euros.
Unless you know otherwise that's about it for Ferraris at Bonneville, unless you include the 4 cylinder 2 litre Ferrari-engined MGA which clocked 140 mph at Bonneville in 1964. The (engineless) car is now back in the UK owned by James Cottingham.
We may not have printed ACAT Global's Press Release, but it did set us off. Therefore we feel we owe them our thanks and this post:
"The ACAT Herringbone Pattern & Particulate Matter and Sound Reduction CAR- technology creates clean air without wastes and virtually no toxic emissions. It uses one-third less precious metals to achieve the same emissions reduction while reducing sound by 30 decibels. This achievement raises environmental standards for manufacturing across the board and makes ACAT a leader in green companies."