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A Photo Essay

Salt & Speed

Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats are home to three annual speed events where racers can go all in with whatever speed device meets their fancy.

Photography By Jeremiah Watt

There’s a salt flat on the playa with long blue lines and a track that runs through it. It’s a space often heard of but seldom visited, a space where fortune is invested, dreams made and friendships forged — all in the name of speed. Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats are home to three annual speed events where racers can go all in — on or in — whatever speed device meets their fancy. At the World of Speed, in early September, the starting line is home to jet-influenced “streamliners,” old school muscle cars, shrouded motorcycles, scooters and everything in between. If you’re willing to build it, and work through the speed categories, you’re welcome to run it.

It’s a setting described by Monte Widdison, vice president of Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, as “the last bastion of high-end amateur racing in the world.” As a photographer associated with foot traffic and highballs, I had no idea what to expect from the land of speed freaks and oversized engines. After four long days and a glimpse under the hood, I realized this tribe of wrench twisters and daring drivers, alone in the desert, are simply an extension of the thrill seekers I call my own — out on the fringe, welcoming and friendly, likely with a beer in hand, and a smile from cheek to cheek.

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A motorsports legacy, the Bonneville Salt Flats have been home to land speed record runs for more than a century.

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A classic on the line get's the young guns dancing.

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A bullet on two wheels looking for a new speed record.

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World record-setting racer Alp Sungurtekin gets a running start atop his hand-built racing machine.

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Monte Widdison, vice president of Utah Salt Flats Racing Association, can be found on the starting line sending drivers off from sun up to sun down.

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Speeds reached on the long track are so high that conventional braking does little, so parachutes are deployed to bring the cars to a stop.

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The fastest Chevy 57 in the world working on slowing it down.

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On the salt flats, you can find out just how fast your 36 horsepower Volkswagen bug can go.

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Camaraderie and community run deep on the salt flats.

Bonneville Salt Flats

Managed by the Bureau of Land Management as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and Special Recreation Management Area, the Bonneville Salt Flats are a 30,000 acre expanse of hard, white salt crust on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake basin in Utah.

How to visit

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