The Kiwi CMR Motorsport team returned from the Bonneville Salt Flats in August with a land speed record. Well-known Auckland motorsport competitor Reg Cook built a car specifically to run at the Bonneville National speed week event and to break the current 2-litre production car record. The previous record was set by a Chevrolet Cosworth Vega in 2009 and stood at 156.8 mph (249.6 km/h). Cook, a Nissan stalwart, chose a Nissan NX Coupe with an SR20 twin cam 4 valve engine for the attempt. The rules allow for extensive modifications to the engine and suspension but the outside body must remain standard. Helped by a group of 20, Cook spent a year building the car to the rules governing the class. The rules relating to the roll cage, on-board fire extinguishers, wheel rims, safety belts, and even a parachute, were all carefully studied and incorporated into the build. The car was finished the night before it was to go into a container to be shipped to Los Angeles. Two technical inspections by the organisers were carried out in Los Angeles before the team transported the car 1100km by road to Bonneville in Utah. The final inspection was completed at Bonneville and the car was ready for its first run. With temperatures around 40 degrees during the week-long event, it was a test of physical endurance for the team as well as a test of the cars performance. “It was a challenge just to find your way around Bonneville Salt Flats,” says Reg Cook. “The event attracts more than six hundred competitors and more than 4000 crew members. The pit area alone took up more than two kilometres of space along the salt flats.” After completing rookie orientation (none of the team had previously taken part in the Bonneville event) the car was lined up for its first run. A nervous Cook was waved away by the starter and at the end of the 3 mile mark the car had achieved a remarkable 168 mph (269 km/h).
The team was delighted at how well the car had performed straight out of the box. To qualify as an official record another run over the same course had to be completed the next morning. The average of the two runs would stand as the new record. At 8.00am the next day the car was on the salt again and this time reached 171 mph for a new record of 169.5 mph. With a record in the bag it would have been easy to sit back and enjoy the satisfaction of their achievement but with typical Kiwi ‘never give up’ attitude the team set out to push their record even higher. By the end of the event, they had set a new Bonneville (and World) land speed record of 174.5 mph (279.2 km/h), smashing the previous record by 17.7 mph! And the final words from Cook: “Fantastic. Now what shall we do next?”