Tuesday, August 08, 2006

GM, E85, & Bonneville: The Corn Is Going To Grow Tall ... In Utah

After setting a new land speed record in the 2.0-liter (G)/Blown Gas Lakester class at 179.381 mph in October 2004, GM, in a ongoing effort to develop its Ecotec “crate” motor, will race the Lakester again at this year’s Bonneville National Speed Week—August 13-19. Image Credit: SO-CAL SPEED SHOP, POMONA, CA (July 20, 2005)

Ahhhh, speed week at the flats!

The place where more land speed records have been set, broken, and re-set than any other place in the world.

Auto drama and performance on display at the 58th meeting in Bonneville and a new record hope is being planned by General Motors.

This time, the stars are a cool retro car named the Ecotec Lakester and a fuel mix known as E85. Some corn (along with some records) is goin'a get popped before the week is through.

Excerpts from Paddock Talk -

GM Returns To Bonneville Salt Flats Looking To Finish What It Started With E85 Ethanol
Posted on Paddock Talk by: ASkyler on Aug 08, 2006 - 04:13 PM

With anticipation at a near-fever pitch, GM Performance Division returns to the historic Bonneville Salt Flats this week, intent on making up for lost time and focused on becoming the first team to set a record using E85 ethanol.

After only two days of speed trials last August, a violent storm swept through northern Utah , leaving standing water on the immense natural speedway and causing officials to cancel the final four days of the event. Until that point, GM Performance Division had set just one record in the G/BGL class (G Class/Blown Gas Lakester) with its Ecotec Lakester, which makes 2006 a redemption year of sorts for the team.

“The rain-shortened schedule prevented us from achieving the goals we set for all our entries last year, but we still gained valuable experience, which will certainly carry over to next week,” said GM Performance Division executive Al Oppenheiser, whose team heads up GM’s efforts at Bonneville . “We have some unfinished business to take care of out at Bonneville.”

Highlighting GM’s vehicle lineup at this year’s 58th Annual Speed Week event on Aug. 12-18 is a Chevrolet Cobalt SS race car engineered in part by three female students, which will attempt to set records using both E85 ethanol and gasoline in the G/FCC (G Class/Unblown Fuel Competition Coupe) and G/GCC (G Class/Unblown Gas Competition Coupe) classes, respectively.

If the Student Project Cobalt SS is successful, it will be the first vehicle to set a record at Bonneville using E85, according to the group that sanctions Speed Week, the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA).

“E85 burns cooler and has a higher octane rating (108) than gasoline, which allows for increased power,” said Oppenheiser. “It’s essentially an environmentally friendly racing fuel, and with GM being a flex fuel vehicle leader, it only makes sense that GM Performance Division would expand that leadership by attempting to set the first E85 record at Bonneville.”

Rounding out the GM vehicle lineup for 2006 are three vehicles built in partnership with So-Cal Speed Shop – the radically redesigned 2006 Chevy So-Cal HHR, the Chevy So-Cal Cobalt SS race car and the Ecotec Lakester, which set a 189.205 mph speed record in the G/BGL class last year and is a modern-day replica of the famous So-Cal belly tank Lakester.

The Ecotec Lakester will again try to up the ante and best its own record in the G/BGL class at this year’s event, but this time, it’s 200 mph or bust for driver Mark Dickens.

“We know the car is capable of setting a 200-plus record, and we really won’t be satisfied unless we achieve that goal this year,” said Dickens. “Last year, we made a pass at 203 mph, so now it’s just a matter of actually putting it into the record book.”

The Bonneville Salt Flats has been the home of speed since the first organized trials were conducted there in 1914. It’s a speedway like no other; hand-crafted by Mother Nature and made of crystallized salt that stretches to the horizon. The grassroots racing environment is very demanding with a “run what you brung” mentality that’s distinctly American, and a deep foundation of tradition permeates the senses.

This year, GM Performance Division will provide regular updates on its record progress to the GM FYI Blog (fyi.gmblogs.com), giving visitors an inside look at the Bonneville experience.

“We consider the Ecotec engine to be this century’s small-block V-8 of four-cylinder engines,” said Oppenheiser, referencing the iconic Chevrolet V-8 engine introduced more than 50 years ago. “Highly adaptable and interchangeable, the Ecotec is extremely robust and provides racers with a great way to field an inexpensive, highly competitive race car. Plus, it’s very hard to argue against an engine that keeps winning races and setting records as much as the Ecotec.”

And ultimately, Bonneville is about just that, setting records. Given the four vehicles GM Performance Division is bringing to the Salt for 2006, there’s no reason to walk across the state line into Nevada and bet against them, unless you have inside information from Mother Nature.

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2006 Chevrolet So-Cal HHR, So-Cal Cobalt SS, Cobalt SS. Image Credit: General Motors

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