Interview: Venturi Automobiles talks to Venturi Buckeye Bullet 3 pilot Roger Schroer
Live from the Bonneville Salt Flats in Wendover, Utah, August 19, 2014. As the team works out of their pit on the Salt Flats, pilot Roger Schroer sits down with Venturi Communications Director, Thierry Apparu, to talk about what it's like to race on the salt desert.
Thierry Apparu: You have spent a lot of time the past few days on the Salt Flats, surveying the conditions to see how fast the water has been moving on the track and how well the track has been drying. How do you feel about these aspects?
Roger Schroer: The good news is that we have 8 miles of track, we would have preferred 12 certainly but if the car is capable we can exceed the existing record. The issue becomes ‘is the car ready?’. As far as the surface (of the track) goes, I have looked at it repeatedly and it continues to dry. The salt layer is pretty thin so that will be a little bit of a new experience but it felt relatively smooth, so I think we have a good surface, particularly if we have another 24 hours for it to dry, that we will be in good shape. I feel good about the surface, I think we have a good race course.
TA: You have gone back and forth on the track. What are you checking for when you do that?
RS: I’m checking the surface conditions and the amount of moisture that is in the surface. I want to take a look at the run-out area at either end. Because of all of the standing water, there are areas at either end that we don’t want to get into. I want to take a look at the reference points on the mountains – at the speeds we are going, you want to have a reference point and typically there is something you can sight-off with, whether it’s a peak or a valley. So, I’m taking a look at that and also because of the difference in the numbering from on emend of (the track) to the other, I want to make sure I understand ‘here’s where the measured miles and the measured kilometers start and here’s where they end, here’s where I can start to shut down. So, yesterday I was out looking at all of these things, making notes, so that before the start of every run I can review that in my mind so that there is no hesitation: "Now I’ve completed the measured mile, it’s time to shut down and hit the parachutes”, “I’m down to the 5-mile mark, now I know I’ve only got 2 more miles” - things like that.
TA: We can see you are excited but how do you feel before going out for two days of very intense work and very intense racing?
RS: I think in particular now, because the car is new and we haven’t had it at very high speeds yet, I’m still sort of in the testing mindset, you know, where we are still developing the car and we’re going to start slowly. Our first pass might not be much over 100mph or 150 mph and we will slowly build up, so I’m in the mindset of akin sure the car is stable and making sure the surface is what we want, so again, I’m still sort of in the testing mind so I am pretty calm about it all. I mean, particularly at those speeds this is largely a technical challenge and so I would say that I'm not really too anxious about it yet. This car has the potential, we believe, to go over 400 mph and when we get it developed to the point where it can do that, then perhaps my mindset will change a little bit, but right now I’m still in the testing mode, I think.
TA: A year ago, you told me that you have many things to do when you are in this type of car in order for everything to go correctly. How do you consider all of the things you need to do in order to drive the car?
RS: Well, obviously we’ve been over 300 mph numerous times so I have a feel for that. When we get the chance to go an extra 100 mph, that’s breaking new ground for the team and for myself, but I continue to have a lot of faith in this team, they have given me a safe car and it’s actually a little bit of a heavy car and based on my experience so far, there is a relationship between weight and stability but the unknown becomes the aerodynamics and how they will react to the higher speeds. Another issue is that, in the land speed streamliners I’ve driven to this point, visibility was somewhat of an issue. All those who drive the streamliners know that because of the compound curve, and the windscreen, and the way the driver is reclined, visibility can be an issue. In this new car, they have actually addressed that to a certain extent and it appears as though there is very little distortion in the windscreen where I’m looking out so I’m interested to see how that plays out when I’m actually on the track.