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Long time Paradise Valley residents join forces to break world record

Posted 10/8/20

The Bonneville Salt Flats and land speed racing are synonymous.

Bonneville is named after Benjamin Bonneville, who was an Army officer that explored the Western United States in the 1800s. The …

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Community

Long time Paradise Valley residents join forces to break world record

Posted

The Bonneville Salt Flats and land speed racing are synonymous.

Bonneville is named after Benjamin Bonneville, who was an Army officer that explored the Western United States in the 1800s. The Salt Flats were quickly recognized as the perfect place to test your race car to see how fast it would go. It is an iconic place, where imaginations come to life and race cars reach unimaginable speeds.

Endurance races with the test being the average speed over 24 hours and flat-out top speed competitions soon took root starting in 1914.

The years of endurance/average speed racing disappeared in 1935 when Sir Malcolm Campbell of Britain became the first man to break the 300 mile barrier on land with a speed of 301.129. The line was drawn.

Top speed records were quickly broken and new top speed records set.

World War II interrupted the racing but at its end gave birth to a new class of individual with “Salt Fever.” In 1949 the Southern California Timing Association decided to expand its racing events from the dry lakes of So-Cal to the salt flats of Bonneville. This was the era of returning GIs and their home built “hot rods.”

The efforts of SCTA, and later in partnership with Bonneville National Inc., laid the foundation for what has turned into the fastest motor sports event in the world. World renowned racers from around the world have competed on the salt.

SCTA/BNI wanted to expand to allow racers with all types of vehicles to compete for records so they created many classifications for potential records.

Strict safety standards and class compliance were established and enforced.

In 1953, SCTA/BNI established the 200 Mile Club recognizing record holders over 200 mph. In the 67-year history of the 200 Mile Club just over 700 individuals have been awarded the “red hat” and hold life-time membership in this truly exclusive club. In 2009, Paradise Valley residents Ed Voss and George Kroeger decided to try for a coveted “Red Hat.”

Mr. Kroeger donated his high school 1973 Mach one Mustang (“334”) that had been in a barn for decades. When Mr. Voss tore out the back seat, it was widely reported that Mr. Kroeger had a tear in his eye. With no exaggeration hundreds of hours and considerable sums were spent to make this 334 a race car that could compete for the record.

The record Voss/Kroeger were chasing was 220.20, by all accounts a “tall” record that was established in 2004 (the salt was much better “back then”).

To break an established record, the competitor had to make two runs. First, one had to “qualify” for the record by breaking the existing world record. The second run was the “record” run and if the average of the two runs exceeded the existing record - the celebration begins.

Voss/Kroeger first went to Bonneville in 2010 and over the next five years qualified twice for the record but failed to “back it up.” The amount of work required to prepare for a new attempt and work pressure made Mr. Kroeger retire from the effort.

Fortunately, a new Paradise Valley resident stepped up. Ted Gunther, a well accomplished car builder/racer talked Mr. Voss into another try.

Will Tait, a successful racer in his own right, and long time friend of Mr. Voss, committed to stay with “the team.” Many hours and considerable sums later 334 was ready to go.

In 2018 334 killed the record at 224 mph and was ready to back it up the next morning when it rained all night and the event was canceled. Incredible disappointment enveloped the team. This was the third time Mr. Voss had broken the record but failed to back it up.

“Salt Fever” is a form of insanity. Undaunted then team returned for the 2020 World Finals event.

Mr. Voss immediately qualified for the record but again failed to “back it up” — missing by less than 1/10th of a second.

Voss/Gunther/Tait put her back in line and qualified again at 224 mph. The record run was over 220 so the average of the two runs was 222, establishing a new world record. At last!

After a 10 year effort and the help of some special people — Mr. Voss, 76, finally got his coveted Red Hat.

Mr. Voss, a judge, sat on the Superior Court for nine years, the Arizona Court of Appeals for 11, and was a Federal Judge sitting on the Arizona District Court for nine years.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted on behalf of Mr. Voss and the 334 team.

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