Best Places To Go Salt Racing
Going salt racing isn’t easy. The rules make the bike you run pretty much useless for anything else without significant reverse engineering. Even production bikes need some alterations which aren’t much good anywhere else. But that’s the easy part.
Hauling the thing, plus everything you need to sustain life and limb for a week on Lake Gairdner is an operation akin to landing on the moon. And once there, you could be forgiven for wondering if that isn’t where you’ve landed.
From the east, pass Port Augusta and aim at Ceduna; from the west, reverse these places. Between them is the mining town of Iron Knob, where you turn onto a dirt road for 137km. By Outback standards, the road’s pretty good – it’s been graded and widened but still has dips, grids, corrugations and dust.
Lake Gairdner is in a national park and is of cultural significance to local indigenous people.
It’s easy to see why: the place has a haunting, arresting presence. If you ever doubted that 21st century humans can die in the Outback, the size and uniform blankness of Lake Gairdner makes it clear that nature doesn’t care if you live or die – and neither do the millions of flies.
If your map suggests Lake Gairdner might be a benign reservoir of sweet, cool water, you’d be flat out of luck, too. Even when it does have water in it, the stuff is nine times as salty as the Dead Sea, and forget about floating in it – the water is so corrosive, it burns bare skin.
Luckily there was no water present for Speed Week this year – just smooth, flat, hard salt. But like many natural environments, the salt can be quite fragile. Patches of the surface become soft, some others are springy and racers are warned: “If you go much beyond the Long Track’s nine-mile marker, you’ll sink.”
Old timers assured noobs the dirt road was in the best shape it’d ever been, and similarly, the salt was in “outstanding” condition.
Keeping the salt uncontaminated is important. Vehicles venturing onto the surface are blown over to remove dust and, on leaving, loose salt must be brushed off. Vehicles must park over tarpaulins to catch drips and have mandatory spill kits to mop up and remove any racing spillage.
The pits, race control, timing control, the snaking pre-race queue and both tracks are all out in the middle of the lake. Getting to the start means a 4km trip from the pits. Looking back, the cluster of vehicles and trailers shimmer in a ghostly mirage. The harsh whiteness reflects light, causing salt blindness – like snow blindness but with more sting.
This article excerpt by Steve Kealy appears in Cafe Racer #2