On 16 March 2020, just 2 days before our scheduled departure from Sydney to participate in Speed Week 2020 and the World Speed Trials Australia on the salt at Lake Gairdner, Greg Wapling (President of Dry Lakes Racers Australia) announced that both events would be postponed indefinitely. Since then, the DLRA have confirmed we’ll have to wait for Speed Week 2021 for the next chance to break an Australian record. However, the World Speed Trials Australia remains in the balance, and without a sponsor for the event our world record attempt could be dead in the water.
In the last few months before Speed Week 2020 my team and I had spent soo many late nights getting final preparations in order. We were dead tired and I was pretty much out of the loop with what was going on in the world. A few days prior (on the 12th) the DLRA was boasting perfect conditions for racing. So at first I couldn’t believe the news. But as we caught up with how fast the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading around the world the realization quickly set in.
As COVID-19 spread international and state borders started to close. My parents were scheduled to fly from Birmingham UK to meet us in South Australia. But new quarantine measures meant even if they did fly they wouldn’t be allowed to join us at the lake. That was a big blow for me personally as I realized it would be a long time before being able to see them again.
Then within days medical and emergency services personnel were advised to forego any non-essential activities. So the DLRA could no longer guarantee adequate safety measures for racers and their teams. Given the circumstances, I fully supported the DLRA’s decision to postpone the events. They had no option really.
Still dreaming of salt
Racing on a salt lake is like nothing else. Especially here in Australia where the remoteness requires a lot of planning and preparation for racing teams. There is no electricity, no water supply and no phone signal at Lake Gairdner. What you bring with you is what you have to work with. If you get hurt or sick, you’re a very long way from a hospital. Still, leaving the city behind to immerse yourself in the desert for a week, living by sunrise and sunset, racing alongside likeminded people is the dream for me.
I must have dreamed of getting back to the salt a million times since my last visit in 2018. My team and I have been working on my next land speed campaign for well over a year now. I’ve been to Lake Gairdner three times, but this time is different. I am aiming to go far beyond anything I’ve done before; break a world record and join the 200 mph club in the process.
A few months on government-imposed restrictions are starting to lift in Australia and we’re starting to see professional sport resume. My team and I have initiated a new plan for Speed Week 2021 taking advantage of the extra time. Meanwhile, James is working hard behind the scenes to try and help the DLRA find the sponsorship they need to make the World Speed Trials Australia possible in 2021. I’ve got my fingers crossed.