Land Speed Racing at the Ohio Mile
Run by the East Coast Timing Association (ECTA), the Ohio Mile is a land speed racing competition held at Airborne Airpark in Wilmington, Ohio. From a standing start, competitors accelerate for a full mile and their top speed is calculated by the time that it takes for them to pass through two timing beams. Competitors ranged from showroom-stock production vehicles to race vehicles straight from the Bonneville Salt Flats and everything in-between.
This offered a completely different discipline for testing the Studebaker’s performance, which had previously stretched its legs at the drag strip, auto cross and road courses. In mid-August, we became members of the ECTA and registered for the last available spot for the September 30th to October 2nd event.
The rule book arrived several days later and with a few minor changes, we determined that the car would fit into the B ( Engine Size), G (Gas), RS (Real Street) Class. There is a class for every imaginable motorcycle, car and engine combination and the rule book focus is on safety with requirements increasing with speed. As rookies, we would have to go through the licensing program, requiring controlled runs of 125, 150 and 175 MPH, with a tolerance of 5 MPH through each stage. However, without a fire suppression system or an aluminum race seat installed in the car, we would be limited to 150 MPH.
We arrived at the Airport at 6:30 AM Friday morning but not much was happening as we waited for the rain to stop. This provided the opportunity to scour the pits and staging lanes for other interesting vehicles. We didn’t have to look too far, as they were everywhere. With 150 cars at the event of every kind imaginable; Hot Rods, old NASCAR stock cars, extended wheelbase Lakesters, Belly Tankers, Bonneville Streamliners, Sports Cars, Restored Classics, Imports, and pure stock street cars. In addition there were almost as many Motorcycles, from 50cc bikes that appeared to be in slow motion, to the fastest bike, and overall event winner at 244 MPH. The fastest car, an S197 Mustang drag car achieved 236 MPH.
Fortunately the rain cleared up by noon, and we were able to complete our first 125 MPH pass. This cleared us to attempt a 150 MPH run the next day. The Studebaker easily reached 150 MPH by the three quarter mile marker, and we had to feather out of the gas before crossing the finish line. The car demonstrated that if allowed, it could have run 165 -170 MPH in full road race trim.
After successfully completing our Class D licensing runs, we decided to load up and head home early Sunday morning. Without the necessary safety equipment to exceed 150 MPH, there was nothing to be gained by completing further passes.
This was a great experience, and a new adventure that may not be repeated, as we learned that this was the last Ohio Mile to be run. The facility has been sold, and a jet rebuilder will bring needed employment to the Wilmington area. The ECTA is actively searching for a new location for 2017, but we are not sure how far we would be willing to drive for the new location. With a cycle time of two to three hours between runs, it is difficult to justify the 7 hour drive to Wilmington for such limited time on the track. If next year's facility is any further away, we will stick to a road course closer to home, rather than chasing land speed records.
If a suitable facility is found closer to home, we may reconsider our plans for 2017. The current record for BGRS class is nearly 200 MPH. Although joining the 200 MPH club would be an incredible accomplishment, the car's horrible aerodynamics would require an significantly more horsepower. Alternatively, building a smaller displacement engine would qualify the Studebaker for a different class with a current record of only 139 MPH. A fully built 302 could achieve similar peak power as the current motor which, in its current configuration, has already proven that it could compete for the record.