Hat Duty & Bonneville 2007: Hondas At Large
In the beginning, I was a little embarrassed about wearing my 200mph Club hat. It seemed like bragging or strutting in a way that just feels wrong to me.
I felt like one of those annoying types who shows up to work on Monday morning wearing a new, never washed tee-shirt they got the day before in that weekend's triathlon or whatever. It felt too new. I had just gotten the hat and my membership into the Bonneville 200mph Club at Speedweek last August. So it was still stiff and unsoiled. It didn't have that well worn shape and patina that makes a garment feel like a part of you. It felt like a pair of new shoes, drawing attention to itself and its "newness." Might as well have had "poser" written all over it.
In the privacy of my own garage, I gradually began breaking it in. The sweat from my forehead has relieved the manufacturer's starchy blocking. Dirt and oil from my hands has somewhat dulled the saturated brilliance of the dye. The headband has softened and stretched to fit my head.
Then there are the conversations it draws when worn in public. Grizzled car guys familiar with the meaning behind the hat want to hear about the car, the class and the engine used to earn it. I am comfortable with that. Curious conversations with average Joe's are more about "what's it like?" Some questions are a joy. Others a burden. But there is a sense of duty that goes with the hat. An obligation to inform and educate.
Land Speed Racing is a word-of-mouth motorsport. There are no advertisements for the next event. No corporate sponsors offering free tickets with every test-drive. Not a lot of hype on the web. Anyone at a landspeed event is there because they asked someone about it. They asked about the cars. They asked about the racing. They asked about the classes and about the event locations. They asked because at some level they would like to check it out. The answering of these questions is where the sense of duty comes in. Because EVERY car guy should go to Bonneville at least once before they pass from this world. And those of us who have gone want to share the experience with others.
Next year looks to be a big year for Hondas at Bonneville. A new cult of Honda guys are headed for the salt. Many with some serious street cred, too. Key players from the likes of AEM, HASport, Hondata and Progress are all looking to show up in August. Author/motor journalist Richard Holdner has a car. El Mirage record holder and Raceline Development owner Elton Lo will be back again with his '98 ITR. There are existing S2000-powered cars already running in the Lakester and Streamliner classes. And rumors persist of several privateers bringing wind-cheating Honda Insights to the party. One Honda Lakester even spent time in a full-scale wind tunnel a few months ago!
So there's lots to talk about when Honda guys ask about the hat. Plenty to look forward to. And many topics for lively discussions about landspeed racing. After 56 years of dominance by the old guard, push-rod type hot rodders, Hondas are starting to make their capabilities known. Feared even.
In 1949, who would have thought a 2-liter car from a country we'd just dropped bombs on would be breaking 200mph records? See it while you can. Go before you're gone. Drag racing was born out of landspeed racing. So was the meaning of the word "bitchin'." Speedweek 2007 is Aug. 11-17th. More info at www.scta-bni.org.