My story about Robin Dripp's attempt to set a new land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats appeared in the Charlottesville Daily Progress last Sunday. The layout in the print edition looked terrific and the two-page spread included several of my photos. The online version is less spectacular, but you can read the text, here, and see a slideshow of my photos of Robin and the Gibby and Dripps Racing Team, here. (As an online bonus, the Progress added a slideshow of my photos that capture the scene at Bonneville more generally. You can see it, here.)
Screen shot of my article about Robin Dripps.
This is how I begin the story:
The first thing you hear is static on the CB radio, telling you that there’s a car on the track. Then there’s nothing but the silence of sun, sky, distant mountains and salt.
When the car first appears, it’s a mirage. Five miles from the starting line, through binoculars or your camera’s telephoto lens, it shimmers motionless, a mere speck hovering over the surface of the salt.
The illusion evaporates as soon as it registers. Sound returns as a steady drone, turns into a wail and quickly becomes the anguished shriek of a race-tuned V8 engine being pushed almost to the breaking point.
The car itself is no longer a speck and hovering mirage. The speck has transformed itself into vintage hot rod, a jet-black roadster hurtling forward at an improbable speed.
As the car passes, the shriek subsides. A parachute blooms; the car slows and drifts out of sight, disappearing again below the curvature of the earth.
Welcome to Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, the fastest place on earth.
As I mentioned, you can read the rest (and see many more photos) on the Progress's website.
Robin was one of over 500 racers who competed during the Southern California Timing Association's annual Speed Week races. I've blogged about Speed Week 2011 a couple of times. You can see a visual diary of my experiences at Bonneville, here, and a portfolio of images that I made on the salt flats (a landscape of stark, other-worldly beauty), here.
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In a blog post that I wrote about Robin several months ago, I called her Professor Speed. She's got a heck of a story -- a former teenage hot rodder, who rediscovered speed when she was in her sixties. In between, she became an architect with an international reputation and the T. David FitzGibbon Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia. Pretty cool.