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Bonneville rain delays BAR record attempt 03 Oct 2005

Bonneville 400 branding on the BAR.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, 2 September 2005

BAR have been forced to postpone their attempts to take a Formula One car through the 400 km/h barrier after heavy rain at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA.

The team were due to begin running this week, with South African driver Alan van der Merwe at the wheel of a specially-prepared (but still track legal) version of BAR’s current 007 car.

However, with surface water - as much as an inch in places - looking unlikely to clear in the coming days, the team have abandoned hope of making any attempt this week. They will remain on standby and plan to return as soon as conditions improve.

"This is a short term disappointment to the team, but the very nature of attempting to run a car at speeds in excess of 400 km/h on a natural surface means it is always susceptible to bad weather and we were fully prepared for this eventuality," said BAR sporting director, Gil de Ferran. "We will be rescheduling our record attempt once our observation team returns to Brackley, but are determined to get back out to Utah again as soon as possible."

Judging when that will be, however, is no easy task, as long-term weather forecasting for the area is notoriously difficult, thanks to the Salt Flat’s unique micro-climate.

"Unfortunately, BAR Honda is the latest victim of the unpredictable weather in this area," said Mike Cook of the Southern California Timing Association who is assisting the team on its attempt.

"It may come as some consolation for the team to know they aren't alone. Throughout the prestigious history of land speed record attempts here, many have been adversely affected by the weather. It's almost a spiritual rite of passage for record setters at Bonneville and will represent a test of the team's mettle. But having met them all, I know they'll be back to set the record."

Even ‘good’ conditions could prove very tough on a Formula One car. Despite their name, the surface of the Flats is anything but, and sets up huge vibrations through the chassis. The other major problem is grip - on a previous trial run, Van der Merwe struggled to steer in a straight line, describing it afterwards as the most difficult thing he had ever done in a racing car.