Mother Nature Overtakes Speed ​​Week, Leading to Cancellation at Bonneville Salt Flats

The rains flooded the pits of the Bonneville salt flats over the weekend. This year’s Speed ​​Week was canceled due to rain which caused muddy conditions. (Mike Nich)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Race conditions were pretty good when Jason Marsh arrived at the Bonneville Salt Flats on Friday.

Marsh, a Salt Lake City-based bodybuilder and runner, was one of many runners from around the world who descended on Tooele County’s natural wonder for the annual Speed ​​Week, a decades-old tradition of cross country. the high-speed race on what is considered one of the best high-speed land surfaces in the world.

His team, Catzilla 2, planned to test the modifications they had made to their vehicle as they sought to make it go up to 300 mph.

Then the rains came.

Monsoon moisture pushed storms over the Western Desert on Saturday, dramatically altering the flat salt surface. This ultimately forced the Southern California Timing Association and Bonneville Nationals Incorporation to cancel this year’s events that were originally scheduled to run Saturday through Friday.

This left runners who came to the western desert to break speed records, like Marsh, disappointed but also in awe of Mother Nature.

“You know, if it weren’t so disappointing and so deflating, it would actually be the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen,” Marsh told KSL.com on Monday, describing the scene at the Bonneville Salt Flats over the weekend. end. . “It was almost like walking on clouds. You can’t tell where the sky ends and the ground begins – it’s like being on a very large mirror.”

Thunderstorms dumped between a tenth and a quarter inch of rain Saturday near two weather monitoring sites in Salt Flats in western Tooele County, according to a National Weather Service report. Some areas near the Salt Flats received over an inch of rain, such as the Utah Test Range. Rains also fell in the region on Friday.

Race crews and spectators posted photos of the soggy conditions and water all over Salt Flats. The rain flooded the pits and made it difficult to travel by vehicle, according to those present.


It’s kind of a romance about it, really. You race Mother Nature to boot.

–Jason Marais


Pat McDowell, president of the Southern California Timing Association, and Bill Lattin, president of Bonneville Nationals Incorporation, initially announced on Saturday that the race would be postponed to Monday until the ground dries out. Then on Sunday, with no sign of improvement, they decided to cancel the event due to “unforeseen weather conditions”.

Marsh has raced on the Bonneville Salt Flats for the past two decades, so he hasn’t been as surprised by the storms. Monsoons typically arrive in Utah in July and August, jeopardizing Speed ​​Week every year the monsoons venture into the Western Desert.

“It’s kind of a romance about it, really. You’re racing Mother Nature to boot,” he said. “The line of progression is kind of like Mother Nature, your machine and then you. That’s the beauty of the whole experience. … You can’t get too upset about things that are completely out of your control. .”

Racers have used the Bonneville Salt Flats for running for over a century. Speed ​​Week is one of two events held annually by the Southern California Timing Association at the Bonneville Salt Flats, attracting people from as far away as Australia and Europe.

For local runners like Marsh, the most devastating element of this week’s cancellation is watching fellow runners who crossed oceans to compete in Utah only to come away with no downtime on the Salt Flats.

The Southern California Timing Association’s second event, the World Finals, is set to be held in the region beginning Sept. 27, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The Utah Salt Flats Racing Association is also set to host its World of Speed ​​event starting Sept. 8, which Marsh is preparing to compete in.

The rain is not really his big concern for the future. With his experience, he is certain that the surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats will benefit in the long run.

Debris from an abandoned campfire in Bonneville Salt Flats on July 29, 2022.
Debris from an abandoned campfire at Bonneville Salt Flats on July 29, 2022. (Photo: Southern California Timing Association)

Rather, he fears that future mining and the way people manage open space will pose a greater threat to the Salt Flats. For example, race organizers documented a lot of campfire trash and debris in the run-up to this year’s Speed ​​Week. This is not only bad for natural areas, but it can be dangerous for vehicles traveling hundreds of miles per hour.

It’s not that Marsh is against people camping and enjoying the space, he just hopes that visitors treat the Bonneville Salt Flats with the same appreciation that runners have of them.

“It’s a blessing that we live so close (to the Salt Flats). I just wish people would go out and enjoy it, but second, do it with respect and not leave so much trash,” he said. declared. “It’s a wonder of nature.”

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Carter Williams is an award-winning journalist who covers general news, the outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a transplant from Utah via Rochester, New York.

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