Honda Racing / IZOD IndyCar Series / RacingLine
Bonneville 400: Just for the Record
Between October 4-11, 2005, B.A.R Honda embarks on its newest challenge: an attempt at setting an official Formula One Land Speed Record on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA.
Driven by enthusiasm and a determination to establish what speed an F1 car can reach away from the confines of a race track, and to challenge themselves outside the immediate realms of Formula One, the team and its group of expert partners has been hard at work developing a car tocope with running at immense speed on the legendary salt flats.
"There is a degree of madness about it," comments B.A.R Honda Sporting Director Gil de Ferran. "When you go to a place like Bonneville it's easy to see why people used to think the world was flat, that you could fall off the edge. To imagine a Formula One car running here is bizarre, totally offbeat - but that's what this is all about. It's a challenge for us all, but the spirit of the land speed record and the people we've met since we started this project are also a reminder to us of the pioneering spirit that symbolizes our own sport."
Bonneville, of course, is the spiritual home of the land speed record: out-of-this-world performances by the likes of Gary Gabelich, Art Arfons, Craig Breedlove and John Cobb in cars like Blue Flame, The Green Monster, Spirit of America and The Railton Special have etched this otherworldly place onto the collective consciousness. And this is what B.A.R Honda plans to tap into with its Bonneville 400 project.
The car B.A.R Honda will use for its record attempt, while being slightly modified for the event, is still a track - legal BAR Honda 007 - the team's entry in the 2005 FIA Formula One World Championship. But as well as a bespoke aerodynamic kit designed specifically for Bonneville, Honda has been working with the team on engine requirements, while tire partner, Michelin, has been involved on compound selection in order to enable the car to surpass the unofficial record speed of 369.9km/h (229.9mph) set by Antonio Pizzonia in the 2004 Italian GP at Monza.
Gary Savage, Deputy Technical Director for B.A.R Honda, and Technical Leader for Bonneville 400 project said, "Bonneville doesn't provide us with our usual baselines, so we have had to second-guess a lot of solutions. The salt surface is a complete unknown to us too, which is why our recent recce was just as important as the actual record run - the data we gathered there will enable us to put the car into exactly the right spec and level of set-up. Technically, this has been a real challenge in a number of key areas for us, and in order not to disrupt the race team's activities on the track, we've used many different experts in these areas to help us. There is no doubt that breaking the record is not going to be easy. But if it was easy, there would be no point doing it, would there?"
At the wheel for the record attempt will be Alan van der Merwe, member of B.A.R Honda's Young Driver Program. With a support team of technicians, engineers and mechanics from B.A.R and Honda on hand to help him, the South African-born 25-year-old will also be receiving guidance from Richard Noble, whose Thrust SCC car currently holds the outright Land Speed Record.
"This is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done in a racing car. I've driven on wet tracks, on icy tracks, but this is much harder than that. To be honest, if an F1 track was as bumpy as the Bonneville Salt Flats was when we visited recently, we'd pack up and go home! But we've already come a long way with this project - too far not to go for it. Providing we have the right conditions, I am confident the team can put me in a position to set the record."
B.A.R Honda Chief Executive Officer Nick Fry concludes, "Like most offbeat projects, this one began with a throwaway remark: what is the optimum maximum speed for a F1 car? No one really knew because for us, top speed very much depends on many different technical variables. But we were intrigued to find out. So we decided that in a year that has provided the team with so many challenges, we would find out for ourselves. It's a thrilling project and we can't wait to try for the record in October."