Land speed racing on a salt lake

By Natsumi Penberthy 24 April 2013
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When racers take to Lake Gairdner, SA, for Speed Week, it’s more than just a joy ride.

AT THE START OF each autumn since 1990, weather permitting, racers rumble onto the moon-like surface of Lake Gairdner, 400km north-west of Adelaide.

More than 300 hopefuls signed up to race in Speed Week 2013, trailed by about 700 support crew, family members and spectators. Their aim: to break the speed record in their vehicle class.

The sport’s aim is deceptively simple: drive one at a time down a nine-mile (14.5km) straight, going as fast as possible. The time is recorded of the fastest ‘flying’ mile.

Vehicle classes range into the hundreds, from humble 110cc postie bikes or slow vintage cars, to million-dollar ‘unlimiteds’.

Land speed record meets

Meets like these were born in the late 1940s in western USA – still the sport’s heartland – and there are a surprising number of ties between the world’s biggest land speed meeting at Bonneville and this remote patch of South Australia. Equipment has been donated, friendships made and regulations adopted in regular exchanges across the Pacific.

Read the full story in issue 114 (May/Jun) of the Australian Geographic journal.