Life’s a blur at 236 mph
Last Saturday morning a 29-foot-long race car streaked across the Bonneville salt flats at 236 miles per hour – a red blur with Truckee’s own Roger Lessman behind the wheel – and smiling.The culmination of four days of preparation at the track and years’ worth of engineering, construction and day dreams in the shop, Lessman’s 236 mph run at Bonneville was merely the beginning of his quest to break the current wheel-driven land speed record of 458.44 mph set by Don Vesco in 2001.Lessman, the managing partner for East West Partners’ Tahoe operations and a self-described speed fanatic since his youth, is no rookie when it comes to driving fast, and his current car – a 29-foot custom streamliner powered by compressed natural gas – is the third race car he’s built and raced at Bonneville in his pursuit of speed.In fact, Saturday was the first opportunity Lessman has had to drive his newest car, and for a shakedown session, he was pleased with its performance.”Saturday morning we went out and in the first shot out of the blocks we ran 180 miles per hour, which was pretty good considering it was a brand new car that I’d never driven before,” he said.”So we went back to the pits, looked the car over, stripped the body off to make sure we didn’t have anything weird going on, put it back together, went back out and ran 236 miles per hour.”But after the successful 236 mph run, time caught up with the Lessman Racing team as the meet they were participating in came to a close.”If we had had the rest of Saturday, even another four or five hours or so, I feel pretty comfortable we would have gotten to 300 miles per hour,” Lessman said this week.”It was a success. I had said earlier that if I got over 200 mph it would be a success and if I got to 300 mph we’d be drinking champagne. We didn’t drink any champagne but we did accomplish what we set out to do.”Next up for Lessman is to add turbo chargers to the engine of his compressed natural gas race car, boosting the horse power to around 2,000 and allowing him to return to Bonneville in August 2005 for an attempt at Vesco’s 458 mph record.On the NetMore on Roger Lessman’s attempts at the land speed record : http://www.lessmanracing.com.Roger Lessman on what it feels like to race at Bonneville:”I get real anxious, as do most drivers out there, until I get in the car. When you’re in the pits and you get ready to go down to the starting line, you get really antsy and just anxious. It’s not fear, but it’s just nervousness. [You ask yourself] is everything put together right? How’s it going to work? Am I going to screw up as a driver? Those kind of things.”And when you finally get in the car and they tighten the seat belts down, then you begin to relax. Then when the engine starts, you switch and then comes the excitement – [you’re thinking] push me, get me going, I want to get going…”Then when you pop the chutes and feel that little tug, you know the chutes came out and you’re safe and everything is fine. When you get out of the car there is this exhilaration that you feel that’s just really cool, and you just can’t wait to get back and do it again.”You go through all these emotions in a fairly short period of time. And then everybody comes up and is patting you on the back and giving you a beer. It’s like you won the Super Bowl or something… And it happens every run.”
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