After all the hard work, waiting and anticipation, when the moment finally comes to drive the Octavia on Bonneville’s hallowed salt I realise I’ve got no idea what to expect.
We’re running in the 2.0-litre forced induction Production Sedan class (G/PS), which sounds pretty mild – and is compared to a lot of the stuff running at Speed Week – but that still means putting comfortably in excess of 500bhp to the salt through the front wheels.
The surface is firm underfoot, but as soon as the motor begins to hit boost the front wheels flare into wheelspin, as though on snow, so I have to seriously short-shift through the first three gears to get going. It’s possible to be more insistent with the throttle in fourth, but still when the boost really kicks-in at 6000rpm the wheels break traction again, so you’re still managing wheelspin at approaching 150mph. Only once we get into fifth gear can I forget about traction issues, keep my right foot down and concentrate on the horizon.
Before you can chase big speeds every new driver must successfully complete a rookie run. This means driving down the shortest course – a one-mile approach followed by a second timed mile – popping your ‘chute and peeling off the course on the correct side so you can be towed back to the staging area or pits by your recovery team. There’s no minimum speed on the rookie run, but no one is allowed to exceed 150mph average. It’s the perfect way to settle your nerves with no pressure to perform.
If you manage to achieve an average of between 125 and 150mph then you also qualify for your D licence. From here the licence grades are awarded in increments of 25mph, so a C licence run is up to 175mph, a B up to 200mph and an A licence up to 225mph. If you’re one of the really quick guys and run more than 275mph you qualify for possibly the coolest licence in the world: a Bonneville Unlimited Speed Licence.
That’s well out of our reach, but I’m chuffed to say the Octavia nailed my D, C and B licence grades in consecutive runs. Making the jump to 200+mph is a big one in car performance terms, but still our hopes and dreams rest on the Octavia exceeding 200mph. I’m keeping everything crossed that I’m an A licence holder by the end of the week.
See part 1 of Dickie's Bonneville video blog here
See part 2 of Dickie's Bonneville video blog here
See part 3 of Dickie's Bonneville video blog here
See part 4 of Dickie's Bonneville video blog here