Land speed record try scrubbed by weather | SierraSun.com

Land speed record try scrubbed by weather

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunRoger Lessman stands by his land-speed car at his home in Old Greenwood Monday afternoon. Bad weather kept Lessman from attempting a land-speed record bid at the Bonneville Salt Flats recently.

After a hot, dry summer, early fall weather thwarted this year’s land speed record efforts for one local racer.

Roger Lessman, managing partner of East West Partners, has been shooting for the 458 mph wheel-driven record in his compressed natural-gas-powered car.

Lessman went on the hunt once again this summer for the record, but ran into rain-softened salt and high winds out at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The developer has been a regular at the Bonneville facility since 1978.

This year’s window of opportunity at Bonneville closed last week, Lessman said, after he equaled his personal best ” and an unofficial record for alternative fuels ” on his first run.

“On our first blast out of the box we hit around 240 miles per hour,” Lessman said. “We were very happy with the car, and hoping to run close to 400, but then Friday and Saturday the weather put us out of business.”

Strong winds made fast runs unsafe last weekend, but it wasn’t the first time this summer that weather threw a wrench in the works for Lessman.

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Ten days before Speed Week in August, thunderstorms softened up the salt on the dry lake, so Lessman said he decided not to attend. Again in September Lessman gambled, deciding to wait for better conditions on the salt in October, which paid off with the best surface conditions yet.

“We would have gotten good speeds if not for the weather,” Lessman said.

Now Lessman said he is left cleaning the salt off the alternative-fuel racer and waiting for better weather next year.

Using compressed natural gas in his racer made Lessman a unique competitor out on the salt flats, he said.

“I wanted to do something different; quite frankly I thought it would be cool to go really fast with alternative fuel,” Lessman said. “There is a perception out there that alternative fuels are lower performance, and I had a point to prove.”

While he could easily take the official record for an alternative-fuel vehicle by doing two back-to-back runs, Lessman said he wants to take down all of the wheel-driven vehicles ” including those with traditional racing fuels.

“In racing circles people are starting to notice my car,” Lessman said. “I’m the natural gas guy at Bonneville.”

Alternative fuels and hybrids have also worked themselves into the fleet of his companies, with some vans running on biodiesel, and a Ford hybrid sports utility vehicle.

“At the end of the day I think there is no single solution for our fuel problem ” that means natural gas, hybrids, biodiesel, electric cars, and hydrogen” Lessman said.