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Little Giant makes big noise at Bonneville
Several hiccups prevented the No. 444 Little Giant car from having a smooth Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats, but the trip was a success for Rick Kunze and Hal Tacker.
The first two competition motors ran into trouble and had to be shut down, but Kunze was able to make two licensing passes, reaching 150 mph using the practice motor during the week-long celebration of speed Aug. 10 to 16 in Utah.
"I was relatively new to the car at least in this capacity, really this was more of a shakedown than anything," Kunze said.
Kunze stepped into a new role this year and was in charge of rebuilding the Little Giant for Team Vesco. He spent the last few months stripping it down and putting it back together.
The engine problems resulted in drivers Dave Spangler and Bob Blakely coming up short on their record attempt runs, but Kunze was able to attain his D license while making two passes in the third engine.
"I got two passes, the first one the engine stalled so we took it back to the starting line, it was new driver unfamiliarity with it," Kunze said. "I got the timing right on the second pass and I took it up to 150, that's a fairly conservative pass."
Each run begins with a push start due to the way the transmission is set up. During his second pass, Kunze reached 150 mph and held it there with the engine running barely above idle in third gear, he said.
The Little Giant will return to Bonneville Sept. 7 for World of Speed, where Kunze will be the primary driver as he increases his top speed with each run to become a fully licensed driver.
"It was very tempting to push it a lost faster," Kunze said. "In two weeks I'm doing all the driving, which is something I didn't know was coming, so I can get fully licensed."
A new paint scheme designed by Colusa artist Hal Tacker, and made possible by Selover's Paint and Body Auto Center in Colusa and Sutter City Auto Body in Sutter was popular with the Team Vesco crew and spectators, Kunze said.
"The paint job was well received, big time. People were surprised it was so smooth and flat — the work Selover's did block sanding it was apparent," Kunze said.
Tacker also made the trip to Bonneville and was thrilled by the experience as he spent much of the week working on the Little Giant and bumping into old friends from his time racing.
He saw an old friend, Dave Brant from Woodland, who was there with his son, Dave, who set a record in their 600cc streamliner, a car Tacker had already been commissioned to paint. Tacker took video and photos of the car to use as references for the painting.
"I've got a lot of material for a whole salt series, and I've had a lot of people writing me to have their cars done," Tacker said. "I got work that I never expected."
While working in the pit area, Tacker learned to pack the car's parachutes from record-setting driver Eric Ritter, and said he was overwhelmed with the desire to come back next year to drive a motorcycle in the event.
A television crew from the Discovery Channel followed the team around, capturing video of the No. 444 car and Team Vesco's other car, the Turbinator II, a 4,213 horsepower, turbine powered speed-monster designed with the goal to break 500 mph. The Turbinator II made two test passes but didn't attempt a record run because it was rebuilt after a 12-year hiatus.
"There were miles and miles of people camping with trailers and riding around on minibikes," Tacker said. "It was like a cross between going to Disneyland, the Indy 500 and Burning Man."
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or email@example.com. Like us on Facebook at TCN Sports; follow us on Twitter @TCNvarsity