Open Menu
Open Menu

Bonneville Salt Flats wins IHMA’s lifetime achievement award

Published in

Photo by Mr. Nixter.

Typically it’s a flesh-and-blood living person who takes home a lifetime achievement award, but the judges for the International Historic Motoring Awards, perhaps acknowledging the seemingly limited lifespan left for the Bonneville Salt Flats, decided to hand this year’s lifetime achievement award to that barren place.

According to Louise Ann Noeth, the decision came after Noeth had nominated Bonneville Speedweek to the IHMA’s Motorsport Event of the Year category. While the judges selected a number of other events as finalists for that category – among them the Lime Rock Historic Festival and the Monterey Historics – “the dire ecological plight facing amateur racing” convinced them to pursue the unusual tactic of naming a “where” rather than a “who” for a lifetime achievement award.

Geoff Love, one of the organizers of the awards, said the award recognizes both the location and the people who have raced on it for the last century-plus. “I can think of no other place that has inspired so many people to such a level, and this award goes to the place itself and to all of those enthusiasts who have endeavored to take a minute, a second or a fraction of a second off a speed record there,” he said.

The 30,000-acre salt flats, formed from the remains of prehistoric Lake Bonneville as far back as 14,500 years ago, have in latter decades shrunk in total area and in thickness. While organized racing on the salt flats dates back to 1914, motorsports events there have become sporadic in recent years – the Southern California Timing Association canceled Speedweek in 2014 and 2015, and though the event returned this year, other motorsports events at Bonneville didn’t – due to the thinning salt crust.

Noeth, a supporter of land-speed racing at Bonneville and an activist with Save the Salt, blamed the thinning crust on the Bureau of Land Management, which is tasked with overseeing the public land and which has allowed potash mining companies to extract minerals from the salt flats since 1917. Geologists from the University of Utah have also raised the possibility that the salt flats may naturally shrink and expand over time and have committed to studying the issue over the next two years.

“We may well witness the end of land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats in our lifetime,” Noeth said.

Previous winners of the IHMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award include Dan Gurney (2015), Willy Cave (2014), Murray Walker (2013), Lord Montagu (2012), and Stirling Moss (2011).

Other award winners at last night’s ceremony in London include the Petersen Automotive Museum for Museum or Collection of the Year, Peter Mullin for Personal Achievement, the Ford GT40 P/1046 for Restoration of the Year, the Amelia Island Concours for Motoring Event of the Year, and the Pegaso Z-102 Berlinetta ENASA Cúpula for Car of the Year.

For the full list of IHMA winners, visit