The following is a phone conversation that I had this afternoon. It’s not every day that you get a phone call from a friend of yours who tells you that he just broke the land speed record in a car that he built. But Ryan Pilla, who owns The Car Doctor in Watermill, did just that.
Pilla called me up today to tell me that a car that he was contracted to build and that was specifically designed to break the World Record for speed in the G/G/T class at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
The conversation went a little something like this:
Me: How in the world did you pull this one off Pilla?!!
Ryan: Basically we were contracted to build a car for the owner of Virginia International Raceway and also the New Jersey Motor Sports Park, Harvey Siegel . He knew about our success in the motor sports realm and had us build a Bonneville race car. This guy is 78 years old and he has a bucket list and this was on his bucket list. He wants to jump out of a plane and climb a mountain too. He really wanted to break a world record with a car and decided on the Bonneville Salt Flats where all the speed records are set.
Me: So he called you up and asked you to build him a car that would break the World Record?!! That’s so awesome!
Ryan: Being that we are car gurus, he contracted us to build a Mazda to break the record of 157.9 miles per hour previously held by the factory team of Honda North America. We went out and after testing a couple of days out there, we made it to 159 miles per hour, then made a few changes to the car suspension, and gear management wise, we were able to get it up to 165 miles per hour and break the record by 7 miles per hour. And if you know anything about racing, you know that just 1 mile per hour is extremely difficult to beat. So yea, in a short way of saying it, we crushed the record.
Me: What was it like on the Salt Flats?
Ryan: I got to tell you, it was almost like a religious experience out there. You could see the curvature of the earth. It is just so wild. The whole salt flat used to be an ocean and as the mountains came up, the ocean dried up leaving the salt behind. It’s amazing. It’s just really wild, 30 to 50 percent of grip is lost because of the salt, it almost feels like you are driving on ice. To watch the sun come up over the salt flats is sort of indescribable. Really incredible.
Me: Did you see any cars trying to break the land speed record?
Ryan: There were other cars out there that were going over 400 miles per hour to break the land speed record. Watching a car go 400 miles per hour drive by you is un-@#$@#$-believable. You can’t even watch it go by because it goes so fast. You only have a split second to see it.
Me: Are you going to go out there again?
Ryan: We’re thinking about making this a part of what we offer at The Car Doctor World and go out there every year with our clients and get them to drive it. We’re going to have them join the 200 mile per hour club.
So there you have it. Just a local guy, his business and his client, making World Record History.