Vintage Grand Prix: The Bonneville Vintage GP Debuts

Vintage grand prix racing got off to an exciting start at Bonneville in northwestern Utah.

| January/February 2007

“Bonneville.” It’s without a doubt the most iconic name in motorcycling, conjuring images of men of steel riding untamed and outrageously fast motorcycles. And for three days last September, it lived up to its image.

For over 100 years, the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah have been drawing racers and speed demons, eager to push the limits of both man and machine in a bid to score big in the history books as the fastest of the fast. Motorcycles, cars, tractors, hell, even lawn mowers taste the fine salt of the Bonneville Speedway as they roar down one of the course’s regulation strips in search of ultimate speed.

Sept. 15-17, 2006, signaled the first of what’s sure to be an annual event in vintage grand prix racing, the 2006 Bonneville Vintage GP. Held at the brand new Miller Motorsports Park outside of Tooele, Utah, a quick 15-minute drive west of Salt Lake City, it signaled the first new venue for AHRMA’s (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) classic motorcycle racing series since the Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama opened its track a few years ago. 

Like New Mexico’s Sandia Classic, the Bonneville GP is trying to fill the void left when vintage racing was pushed out of Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 1998, a victim of progress and encroaching condos. Vintage race organizers had one successful year, 1999, in Park City, Utah, but a small – and wealthy – group of Park City residents forced the local city commission to abandon the event, even after 18,000 people showed up.

It was the failure of the Park City venue that prompted Craig Murray to organize the Sandia Classic starting in 2003, and it also prompted Utah resident Tom Kullen to organize the Bonneville Vintage GP.

Kullen, who moved to Utah in the 1970s to be a ski bum, started racing not long after. He attended all of the races at Steamboat, and was one of the major forces in organizing the Park City race. After Park City, Kullen continued looking for a site in Utah, at one point approaching Tooele city officials with a proposal to build a club-type track outside of town. But then came 9/11, which Kullen says killed the investor pool.

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