Even the most ardent motorsports fan might never have heard of El Mirage Dry Lake or, El Mo as it is known to the cognoscenti.
El Mo is located about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert. Used to be, it was way out there, nowadays the townies are creeping ever nearer with housing tracts, strip malls, and the inevitable traffic. Nevertheless, the Southern California Timing Association (SCTA), formed in 1937, continues to sanction land speed racing events every month from May through November except August when they go race at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.
Unlike Bonneville, which is a salt lake, El Mo is a dry lake of alkali dust. Most every winter it rains and levels out the bed, more or less, to form a long, flat race track. Every spring a hearty and hard-working band of pure volunteers arrives to lay out a 1.3-mile course that runs arrow straight West to East.
At each event, several hundred racers face Mecca and try to break a record. The fastest car so far on the lake is the Leggitt-Mirage Blown Fuel Lakester, an open-wheel device driven by Paul Prentice to a speed of 312.100 mph. There are plenty of records in excess of 200 mph that puts you in the ‘Dirty Two’ club. The fastest motorcycle is John Noonan with a speed of 252 mph.
I’ve made the pilgrimage to El Mo many times, even raced a car there and every time I drop down onto that dirty, dusty, hotbed of activity I, like so many others, get a chill from walking where the founding fathers of hot rodding raced in the ’40s.
I currently hang with ex Shelby employee Steve Hope and his crew Jim Alvaney, Chris Thoman and driver Jere Teepen who race an FWD ’84 Dodge Charger. Scott Harvey began racing the car in 1984 when it was new and when it went 142.85 mph. Now, with sponsorship from Capautorecon.com and USAutomotive.co.uk, and running in the 2.0-liter Blown (turbo) Gas Coupe class it has gone over 206 mph at Bonneville, however, they were unable to confirm the record. Meanwhile, driver Jere holds the class record at El Mo at 190.587 mph but as yet the team been unable to break the ‘Dirty Two’ mph barrier.
To experience land speed racing and watch all this amazing machinery you just have to pay the Bureau of Land Management $15 for entry to the lake bed (per day). To learn more about the SCTA and to get a schedule of race dates, visit scta-bni.org or visit their Facebook page @SCTASouthernCaliforniaTimingAssociation