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TROG Bonneville Salt Flats races postponed

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Image courtesy The Race of Gentlemen.

It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong, especially knowing the naysayers will be quick to crow, “I told you so.” But that’s exactly what Mel Stultz, founder of The Race of Gentlemen did on June 21 when he postponed the Bonneville Salt Flats Drag Races that were announced less than three weeks earlier at the Wildwood, New Jersey, running of TROG. The delay comes from a commitment to quality and a belief in doing things the right way.

Blame it on optimism and a can-do attitude. The Bonneville event, inspired by overtures from veteran TROG racers, was originally scheduled for September 15-16, 2017, during the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association’s World of Speed event. Unfortunately, that gave both organizers and prospective racers only around three months to prepare. The suddenness of the announcement left many with questions, not least of all land-speed racers, who have fought long and hard to preserve the natural wonder that is the Bonneville Salt Flats and who were concerned about potential damage from the different type of racing.

“The timing just isn’t right,” Mel said in the announcement he made over Instagram, “to make Bonneville perfect.” Anyone who has attended TROG knows that the atmosphere is about far more than the automobiles present, and can undoubtedly imagine the time and effort it takes to get the details right. Rather than risk going forward with an imperfect event, Mel decided to postpone things for a year.

Also, Mel says, he wants to use the additional time “to prove we are not going to disturb any salt either!” That should come as no surprise to anyone who has met Mel or the TROG organizers, who do what they do out of love for the history of motorsport and would not want to risk damage to the Salt Flats. In fact, it’s rumored that the 2018 event may be recast as “Speed Trials” rather than “Drag Races” to better reflect what will be happening on the salt. Though USFRA president Dennis Sullivan notes that people who know the salt well have no concerns about what antique cars running antique-spec tires will do.

“I have seen 2,000-horsepower streamliners leave eighth-mile black marks without damage,” he says.

USFRA’s Mission Statement is “to preserve the Bonneville Salt Flats and to promote the use of this historic place for motor sports for all future generations.”

In fact, one of the reasons USFRA is enthusiastic about supporting a TROG-like event on the Salt Flats was to increase interest in land-speed racing. Attendees, it is envisioned, can shuttle back and forth between two different racing venues, getting exposure to both. The events, though separate, will share common security, ambulance, and fire services. Further, USFRA will prepare the racing surfaces and provide timing clocks.

Stay tuned as we follow along with the development of The Bonneville Salt Flats Drag Races and all the other fun Mel comes up with for old-car aficionados.