The Speed Week races that draw hundreds of racing teams from around the world to Utah’s famous salt flats were cancelled Monday for the second consecutive year because of wet conditions.
The Southern California Timing Association, which organizes the race, cancelled the event Monday after reviewing the flats and determining conditions were too wet or patchy for speed trials starting Aug. 8.
“It’s just ultimately very wet and slushy and muddy,” Bill Lattin, the SCTA president and Speed Week race director, told The Associated Press.
To run a very short course, organizers need 4 to 4 and a half miles of flat salt, but they were only able to find about 2 and a half miles of suitable salt amid the rough, muddy and patchy flats Monday, Lattin said.
The salt flats, shaped by wind and water, are one of the fastest natural tracks in the world, drawing racers from the around world for more than 80 years.
Numerous land speed records have been set on the usually flat and smooth salt surface, about 100 miles west of Salt Lake City. Racers driving cars, motorcycles and anything with wheels now reach speeds of 300-400 mph, said Lattin.
The salt flats were featured in the 2005 movie starring Anthony Hopkins, “The World’s Fastest Indian,” about the lift story of New Zealander Burt Munro. He set a speed record at the salt flats in 1967 on a motorcycle he built.
Speed Week is the biggest of several racing events held annually at the Bonneville Salt Flats, a remnant of the ancient Lake Bonneville. The event draws about 10,000 to 15,000 spectators from as far away as Australia, in addition to the hundreds of racing teams.
Lattin said more than 500 individual vehicles had already registered to participate in this year’s event.
Race organizers could make up for cancelled Speed Week by extending another race at the Salt Flats in October, or reschedule this August event at a similarly flat location in another, but Lattin said there were no firm plans Monday afternoon and he wasn’t ready to disclose where they might relocate.
Last year, race organizers cancelled the event days before the race after monsoon storms left ankle-deep water on the flats.
The SCTA has been holding Speed Week at Bonneville Salt Flats for more than 60 years and has canceled periodically due to weather. Before standing water scuttled the 2014 event, the last cancellation was in the 1990s.