Related Story: Speed Week: an extreme sport in the extreme desert

After years promoting the virtues of motorsports, public relations guru Mike Drewer has been racing for himself across the salt bed of Lake Gairdner in South Australia.

Drewer is well known among Adelaide's media and motorsport organisations for his tireless work promoting the likes of the former Clipsal 500 and the Formula One Grand Prix.

But since retiring about four years ago, the 70-year-old has been altering a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle for himself.

This includes "chopping" it back to make it more aerodynamic and installing a Subaru motor along with an esky he fills with dry ice for the turbocharger's intercooler.

"The original car had about 45 horsepower and mine has about 300 horsepower, so it's a beast of a thing," Drewer said.

External Link: Speedster Valerie Thompson survives a 520kph crash on Lake Gairdner

He told ABC Radio Adelaide's Evening program that he had recently returned from Speed Week on Lake Gairdner, where he traversed the lake bed at about 250 kilometres per hour in one-way time trials.

"It's like driving exceptionally fast on a well-maintained dirt road with a drifting surface," he said.

"There is no traction on the salt. It's very, very hard but it has no grip, and because it's such a vast salt lake you do get side winds and things like that, so it does get your attention."

Drewer did not quite reach his intended speed of more than 320kph due to "engine trouble" but he has plans to return.

"I think the car is capable of doing it."

A vehicle competing in speed week

A collection of wild vehicles from far and wide

Speed Week was first run at Lake Gairdner by Dry Lakes Racers Australia in March 1990 and has been running ever since, provided the conditions allow it.

It attracts drivers and their cars, trucks and motorcycles from Australia, the US, New Zealand and the UK — machines that could sometimes look like they have come from a Mad Max movie.

The location is part of Lake Gairdner National Park, which is also the traditional home of the Kokatha people.

A truck at Speed Week

Drewer was among 232 entrants this year who had to take precautions not to bring red dust onto the lake.

All vehicles had to be air-blowed with leaf blowers first and, conversely, all salt had to be removed from the vehicles before they left the lake.

"People like myself are allowed to use it once a year for this purpose," Drewer said.

"We are very privileged to do so because it's a unique part of the world and well worth visiting, even if you're not involved in motorsport.

"It's awe-inspiring to see this huge salt lake and it's a lot of fun.

"It's one of the very few places in the world, other than Bonneville [in the US] and a couple of other places where you can actually run cars in a straight line at very, very high speeds with nothing around."

Mike Dewer's VW Beatle

Fascination sparked by Donald Campbell's land speed record

Drewer has been racing cars all his life, even if he hasn't raced for some time.

He said he became fascinated by salt lake racing when Britain's Donald Campbell broke the land speed record at Lake Eyre in 1964.

"They paraded that car down King William Street and it was on display in David Jones," Drewer said.

Mike Drewer's trophy

"This caught my attention as being a totally different form of motorsport, and then of course there was the movie, the World's Fastest Indian with Anthony Hopkins.

"It was a great movie that showed salt lake racing in America at Bonneville and was a true story based on a [record-breaking] chap called Burt Munro from New Zealand."

Drewer did not say whether he was out to break any records for himself but, "amazingly enough", he did come home with a trophy for Rookie of the Year.

"I must be the oldest Rookie of the Year," he laughed.

"There were quite a few people out from America with incredibly fast cars and motorbikes.

"They were saying it's far better than Bonneville … I think we're going to see a lot more people there."

Target 550 races across the salt

Original Article


ABC .net


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