Fear and Loathing in Bonneville (My Trip to Speedweek)

By Mike Kojima

No this story is not a tale about a classic blowout to Sin City but something almost as bad, the conclusion to my 2012 Motorsports world tour. This started on the west coast on the Formula D circuit at the end of July and just ended this last weekend at the Las Vegas round of Formula D.  During this time, I have probably only been home for about 7 days with perhaps only 5 uninterrupted days being home straight.

A few days before the event the car looked like this, in pieces.  The crew didn't sleep much in the week leading up to Speedweek.  Speedweek requires booking months in advance.  A few months ago, that sounded like a reasonable amount of time to get the car ready.

This adventure encompasses my job as Team Engineer for Falken Tire's Dai Yoshihara and Darren McNamara, crew chief for the ill fated Team America WTAC GT-R, consultant for KW Suspension and General Motorsports Engineer for hire.  In between all that I try to run this place but it helps that we have an excellent staff at MotoIQ.  Needless to say, I have been flying all around the globe doing stuff in all sorts of Motorsports and not getting much sleep lately.

So we hit the road late and ran into horrible LA traffic.  Chuck was somewhat miffed because the crew left before the car was done. The final assembly of the car would have to wait until the car arrived at the salt flats.  This would be far from ideal but we would make it work.  Things could be worse, we would have a lot of helping hands there.  Not wanting to ruin our own cars on the salt, Chris and I decided to rent a brand new 2012 Ford Explorer.  Stephen Quinn and Christa Kojima are in the back seat, I have no idea where Christa is in this picture.  Our truck was packed with about $10,000 worth of equipment.

My original plan was to fly straight from WTAC in Australia to Bonneville Speedway to help Chuck Johnson in the maiden run of our Project LSR S13.  I was hoping my health and sanity would hold up as this would be coming straight from a stint in Europe and I was expecting the GT-R would be a multi day hell thrash at WTAC.

We finally hit Vegas and since the car still had not left, we decided to stay in Vegas.  A call was placed to some friends in high places and a baller suite was procured.  We decided to live it up since we would probably be suffering on the salt!

Well the GT-R ended up on a slow boat to China (read about that here) but I had additional car prep duties for Falken and a few other projects so no time to catch up on sleep or get over jet lag really.  I did feel that i had a moral duty to help Chuck at this event since he is one of my best friends and my daughter's Godfather (he sometimes claims to be her father).  Bonneville is actually a pretty difficult place to drive and potentially quite dangerous.  I had spent some time trying to visually analyze several videos of crashes in cars of our BGC category where few aero mods are allowed and had some bad feelings about what could happen so I wanted to make sure that everything I know what to do with suspension would be available to help.

The next day we found ourselves to be slightly behind the car with Chuck Johnson and Annie Sam of Project 240SX LSR. We hit the road and drove for hours through nothing.


You can read about building the car here!

You can read about our other Bonneville adventures here!

And Here!



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Monday, September 03, 2012 7:08 AM
Congratulations Team! Most importantly I'm glad Chuck is safe. Definitely interested in reading how you'll solve the traction issues. Power usually isn't a problem for the venerable SR20. Have to rent one of those mega telephoto lenses for next time.
Bob Holmes
Bob Holmeslink
Monday, September 03, 2012 11:46 AM
Nicely done.

In order to gain traction, you'll need to add weight. Usually a lot of weight.

I know, usually as racers we try and use the lightest vehicle weight allowed. However, at Bonneville its different.

We dyno at John Beck's Promachine in Chico Ca. His car holds the record for blown street roadster. 304 mph. The car is solidly suspended, and weighs 6800 lbs. Another buddy tunes Lee Sicelio's Charger, it went 288 and weighs well in excess of 4000 lbs.

Your coefficient of friction, on the salt, is unlikely any other racing surface.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Monday, September 03, 2012 12:03 PM
I was under the impression that drag increases exponentially with speed which means BIG horsepower per weight is needed for those 200-300mph runs?

If memory serves me, I think I remember a Kojima/Johnson LSR story involving a certain B13 during those SCC days!
Monday, September 03, 2012 9:09 PM
Power required increases to the third power vs. speed. So in requiring ~330whp to go ~185mph, it'll take about 500whp to top 210mph.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, September 04, 2012 6:29 AM
Power per weight isn't the relevant metric anymore; top speed isn't limited in terms of needing a high acceleration to reach whatever speed in a short distance, it's limited by aerodynamic drag more than anything.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Tuesday, September 04, 2012 7:49 AM
... dammit. You guys have me sketching a 13B powered Lakester now.
Tuesday, September 04, 2012 10:48 AM
Thanks Mike for the awesome write-up for all LSR action coverage!!
R. Motoki
R. Motokilink
Friday, September 07, 2012 1:21 PM
Great job for your first time out there. Links to vids from that Go-Pro in the windshield please?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Friday, September 07, 2012 1:30 PM
That's coming.
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