When you first see this "dragster" you wonder, what mad scientist built it and why. But read along and find out how this dragster was instrumental in setting a recent world's record on the fabled Salt Flats of Utah.
Bonneville, Salt Flats is a mystical place that offers racers a chance to reach unheard of speeds with a straight stretch of flat salt lake bed, which can reach over five miles when conditions are right. But not just cars and trucks are involved with setting land speed records.
Denise Mueller-Korenek from Encinitas, CA in 2018 was interested in bettering her 2016 women's bicycling speed record and breaking the men's record as well. To do this requires a special built bicycle with unique gearing that allows one revolution of the pedals to move the bike 134 feet. But this gearing obviously won’t work to move the bike from a dead stop. So in the world of paced bicycle racing a vehicle tows the bicyclist to speed and then the bicyclist must pedal the measured mile under their own power and behind the fairing.
So that where this modified dragster comes in. It was driven by Shea Holbrook a professional racer. The panels on the side provide a pocket with limited turbulence for the bicyclist to ride in. But unlike other racers who only have to worry about stomping on the pedal, Holbrook has to coordinate her driving with Mueller-Korenek. Drive too fast and you leave the bicyclist in your dust and she hits a wall of air at 160+ miles per hour. Drive too slow and the bike runs into the dragster with similar bad results.
The dragster needs to crank up to 140 miles per hour in the first mile and that gives the team space to untether the bike and let Mueller-Korenek crank up the speed on her own before she hits the speed traps for the last mile. Once she clears the measured mile length, they both slow down and then the bicyclist peels off and slows with the wind drag. In 2016, with a similar setup she set the women's record at 147.7 mph.
As often the case in the completive world of racing, you see competitors come together and in this case, the dragster is owned and loaned by Fred Rompelberg who set the men's record in 1995 at 167 mph. The dragster is a Top Fuel racer with 800 horsepower which actually accelerates smoother than the Range Rover she used in her 2016 record. There is a set of LED's at the back of the dragster to indicate how much of the track the bicyclist has covered during the time trial.
So on September 16, 2018 Mueller-Korenek set the overall record at 183.932 miles. This translates to covering a mile of the salt flats in less than twenty seconds! But she might not be done yet. Seems the owners of another dragster that her coach John Howard previously used to reach 152.2 mph offered her the use of it. And that dragster can reach 200 mph!
©2019 Mark C. Bach
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