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ROCKVILLE — No matter what the sport, every team has a goal.
For more than 30 years, all Team Vesco could think about was going faster than anybody else.
And they had a number in mind.
“Five hundred miles an hour,” said Rick Vesco, who is the owner of Team Vesco. “Nobody in world history has ever gone 500 miles per hour in a wheel-driven car.”
You read that right: 500 mph in a regular turbine powered, four-wheel drive engine.
“I don’t know. Crazy, I guess,” Vesco said with a laugh. “Every family has to have something to do and this is a family activity.”
Team Vesco is based in Rockville, Utah, near the southern entrance to Zion National Park. However, the team has volunteers who help them with their streamliner-model car from across the country.
“We built the car in Brigham City, Utah. Started it in 1984,” said Vesco.
Throughout his racing career, Vesco said he's heard plenty of people saying what could and couldn’t be done.
“Originally in the '60s, they predicted land speed cars were limited to 400. They just weren’t going to do it wheel driven, that’s why all the jet car guys came out,” said Vesco.
His brother, Don Vesco, set the land speed world record for their class in 2001, before dying of prostate cancer. Don Vesco never got to 500, but the record stood for several years. Other teams, though, started getting closer.
“When we decided to get this thing back in action, because there’s a lot of cars now going over 400 and the competition is getting pretty keen,” said Vesco.
Earlier this year, during Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Team Vesco set the world record again for a wheel-driven car by averaging 482 mph over two runs with a top speed of 492 mph.
“The salt is good now because it’s hard and dry, because of the weather,” said Vesco. “The salt crystalized and it’s stayed nice. It’s given us the best traction in many, many years.”
That’s why, this week, the team felt like conditions were perfect to go for the 500 mark.
Tuesday afternoon, with Dave Spangler driving, the car took off and kept accelerating. Between mile 4 and mile 5, they did it: 503 mph.
“We were listening on the radio and we all freaked out when we heard it,” said Vesco.
Of course, we wanted to know what it felt like to sit behind the wheel doing 500 mph. The driver said it’s not an easy answer.
“A lot of times, I get asked ‘how does it feel?’ And my answer is, 'I don’t know.' I truly don’t know. I just concentrate. I really do,” said Spangler. “You have to be ahead of the car at all times, you know? You cannot be a passenger. And when you start thinking about anything else, looking at the gauges or lights or anything else, you become a passenger in a hurry.”
There’s no room for error when you’re going that fast. However, there is room for brother Don. His image was painted on the nose of the car.
“Even though Dave is driving, Don is going to be the first one to 500,” Rick Vesco said with a smile. “So we were going to try to make it happen and we did.”
It’s the culmination of years of hard work by Team Vesco.
“No one has ever done it. Five hundred miles an hour,” said Vesco. “People around the world, we’re getting telegrams right now and everything else about this thing and it’s neat. It’s all been worth it.”
No way they can go faster, right?