As many of you know I run a Saab two stroke Sonett at Bonneville Salt Flats. These races at Bonneville are sanctioned by a group called Southern California Timing Association. (SCTA) Bonneville is the mecca for land speed racing. But I heard through my friend Bertil Sollenskog, who also holds a Bonneville speed record, about the East Coast Timing Association (ECTA) running at Wilmington, Ohio in an event called the “OHIO MILE”. This venue is setup to help “ready” a car for Bonneville. Unlike Bonneville it is just ran over only a mile stretch of road on an airport runway. (There is also the “TEXAS MILE”) It is a standing start but you can use a “push-off” vehicle to get you rolling. The only part of the track that really counts is the last 113 feet or so were the timing trap lies! What I liked about the Ohio Mile is it is only about an 11 hour drive for me and it is a record setting event since it has the ECTA sanctions. Bertil set a record there at 97.3815MPH with his 1966 Saab Monte Carlo last fall running one of my Bonneville engines I call BV2. Since we already knew how fast BV2 pushed Bertil’s 96 I figured using the same engine setup (carbs and all) was in order.
May 2014 Ohio MileAaron2014-05-29T18:29:38-05:00
A few weeks before the May 2nd racing I install BV2 in my 1968 Saab Sonett and proceed to do some dyno work to help establish some baseline numbers. Since I was going to run in the same class as Bonneville, “J-GT”, (750cc & down in a Grand Touring Chassis) it all seemed good. Plus I had heard the class I was running in was an “open record”. Which means no one was a current record holder. This is not unusual since the ECTA running at Ohio is fairly new (2012). They (ECTA) use to run at Maxton, North Carolina but have now changed the venue to Wilmington, Ohio. Running in an open record class meant all I really need to is “show up and run a mile”. So I planned accordingly using the event to help “game plan” the bigger runs to come this August at Bonneville.
But that all changed 3 days before I left for Ohio when I actually went online and discovered there WAS an existing record in my class of 107.0791MPH. Darn! I quickly had to change my game plan and fortunately had already ran the dyno on a few “mock mile runs” so I had a good idea of what to expect at Ohio. Since Wilmington and Fort Dodge were the same elevation I knew I could expect similar results (unlike Bonneville were the Air density changes constantly). I felt the mile record was within my reach but my smaller HP motor BV2 was really not the best choice. I also knew the fastest I have ever gone at Bonneville (with my higher HP BV1 engine) in a mile was about 109mph based off video’s of my runs there. (Bonneville does not start recording average MPH till AFTER 1 mile) However some of the fun is in the “not knowing” right?? So I decided to Leave BV2 in the car but did decide to make a transmission final drive change just before we left. A few more quick dyno runs and I felt 110MPH was doable.
I ran all this info past my crew chief Marty Adams from Meyer Saab here in Iowa. Those of you who know Marty know his Saab knowledge is vast indeed. From Vintage to 2011 Saabs, Marty is a true Master Saab Tech. Plus he has owned 92’s to 2nd gen 9-5’s. Having him on my team was special because of our close friendship and his knowledge of Saabs and racing. Plus he and his brother Chris Adams had built my Sonett’s Roll cage!! Chris Adams is well know in Iowa and Minnesota for building 1st class stock car chassis.
Once I had Marty’s node of approval I loaded up the car and headed east. I picked Marty up at his store, Iowa City Saab and off to the races we went. We arrived plenty early and had no issues with our Bonneville spec car clearing the tech inspection at the Ohio Mile. The racing started Saturday AM and we had the car setup very conservatively so we could make a run and just see how every thing ran on asphalt rather than wet salt. The morning has many delays with blown motors, transmissions and the likes from the winters work of others. Also the timing tower kept quitting so that delay things more. As the morning wore on a head wind picked up. As we got ready to make our first run about 12:30, the winds peaked at 27MPH right into our nose! Certainly not good for top speeds. All the cars ahead of us were running slower than normal speeds. We took off with a quick push and the Saab ran well. I had a bit of a miss about 7,800 RPM’s going into 4th gear so I lost a bit of speed. Too little timing and a bit rich, but I was playing it safe on this first run. After the run Marty towed me back to the tower for our speed ticket and it showed 106.7572 MPH! Wow, not a new record but REALLY close to the 107.0791 mph record, (missed by .3219 mph of a second) and with a 27MPH head wind! Marty and I were pleased and got right back in line to run again but with in a 1/2 hour the winds had become too much and the track was closed for the day. Marty and I adjusted the timing and leaned it out a bit. We felt the record would be ours if we had another chance to run. That would have to wait till Sunday…something neither of us really had time for. We had both planned on a Saturday only event as work was piling up in Iowa for both of us. Guess it would have to wait. We had to run again.
Sunday the forecast was still windy but the track opened on time at 8AM. But is was closed after the 1st two cars ran and they discovered the timing lights had broken again. This time it went on till about 11am with no racing! Just when it looked like the record would escape us with a closed track again (as the winds continued to build), they solved the light issue and started herding us through the lines! By 12:30 we at the start ready to run. This time the engine miss was gone and the car ran perfect! We broke the old record with a run of 110.8921 MPH. (See photo) The car had performed as planned. Marty and I wished we could run again cause we knew we could add more MPH with some simple mod’s but time had ran out for us. Time to load up and go home with another record for the Green Saab Sonett!
The Ohio Mile is a fun and clean event. (No salt!) The people there loved both mine and Bertil’s 96. Lots of questions and the usual “my uncle/brother/father/neighbor use to own one of those”. At Bonneville the pace is pretty intense and there is not a lot of “chit chat”. At Ohio the mode is much clammer and easy going. I would strongly suggest anyone who wants to play with your car to read up on the rules and got here. There a re lot of “street cars” there, unlike Bonneville where you must butcher your car to race ready it. Plus the people who run the event try very hard to make you feel welcome here. Not always the case with an import car at an American racing Icon like Bonneville! (Although I do always get treat very well there 🙂 All in all good fun!
Thanks for reading and as always, Safe Saab’in! Tom Donney