Land Speed Racing 101
The team they formed, called Greenspeed, is made up of students from Boise State’s College of Engineering. Led by Dave Schenker and Patrick Johnston, in the span of a few months Greenspeed was able to pick up over 70 sponsors and acquire over $100,000 in donated parts that would go towards a 700 horsepower Chevy S-10 that can run on diesel or straight vegetable oil. I spoke with Patrick Johnston, who is the VP of the Greenspeed team, about what it took to put this crew together.
“The idea goes back over two years ago,” says Johnston. “The school wasn’t exactly keen on a bunch of students going after land speed records.” The idea originated with Dave Schenker, who had tinkered with diesels for years. Johnston joined up “because who wouldn’t want to do this?”
Though Boise State eventually agreed to the student-led land speed racing team, Greenspeed went above and beyond the safety measures required by the sanctioning bodies of land speed racing of their own volition. “For example, to go as fast as we planned on going, we only needed a 4-point rollcage, but we installed a 10-point cage,” explains Johnston. “Instead of a 5-point harness, we use a 7-point harness.”
Chasing The Dream
But building a land speed racer is neither easy, quick, nor cheap, as Greenspeed was soon to find out. “We wanted to set a record at Speedweek, but on the day we were supposed to leave, the engine still wasn’t in the truck.” This year’s event began on a Saturday, though Greenspeed didn’t end up leaving for the Bonneville Salt Flats until Tuesday.
Speedweek behind them, the team had a license, and tried to attend two other land speed racing events, but encountered engine problems during their second run (cracking two cylinders) and the third event was rained out. With the season drawing to a close, they started looking for other venues. “Dave got in touch with SCTA about El Mirage, which is a dry lake bed. The SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) was glad to have us, and so we headed there,” says Johnston.
That was earlier this month. After an initial pass of 139 MPH running veggie oil, Greenspeed’s S-10 pickup made a second run on their blend of cottenseed and sunflower oil. The result was a record-breaking speed of 155.331MPH, blowing away the previous veggie oil record in the diesel truck class. And that’s how a bunch of college kids set a new land speed record, though according to Johnston “Had we been on the salt, where we’d get more traction, we could have gone even faster. There is a lot of power left in that truck.“
And at the end of the day, that is what land speed racing is all about. Chasing records and chasing dreams. Green is the new fast, and Greenspeed is just the vanguard of an ever-growing movement of environmentally responsible racing. My hat is off to them.