Rumor has it that the iconic M40 speedway at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah is closed. This rumor has been making the rounds on social media and the mainstream media has been reporting on it as well. While it’s true that there has been no official announcement from the track organizers, the fact that this rumor has gained so much traction shows how important this historic track really is. Not only is it one of the most famous racetracks in the world, but it’s also one of the few remaining speedways where you can still drive the legendary wheeled vehicles that were first created more than 70 years ago. The fear is that with the closing of the M40, many historic and vintage cars will be lost to time and corrosion. This would be a great shame, not only because these are some of the most valuable vehicles in the world, but because these cars represent the ingenuity, spirit and innovation of the American people.
The Evolution Of Speed
In the beginning, speed was measured in kilometers per hour (km/h). At first, cars only had headlights and no other lighting other than the occasional car lamp, which was only used for showing other cars who was driving. After the invention of the automobile in the 1880s, speed became more of an issue and different methods for measuring and displaying it were invented. The first speedometer was invented by the French in 1913 and it showed the car’s velocity in kilometers per hour. Other notable milestones include the first ever radar detector being marketed in 1946, the jet engine helping fuel the Space race in the 1950s and the first laser being built in 1964.
These days, speed is still often measured in kilometers per hour (km/h) but we also often find ourselves being presented with a speed index (SI) or a speed grade (SG) on signs and in apps. A speed index indicates how quickly something is moving relative to other things in the vicinity and it is often used in combination with a speed grade. A speed grade, on the other hand, indicates the intensity of something’s speed compared to a standard. For example, a speed grade of 93 means that something is traveling at least 93% of the speed of another object or event in the same vicinity. These days, a car that can reach 60 km/h (37 miles per hour) is considered fast and most modern cars can easily reach this speed.
The Different Types Of Speed
There are three different ways to measure speed today, each with its own purposes:
- Kilometers per hour (km/h)
- Miles per hour (MPH)
- Nautical miles per hour (NTL)
Kilometers per hour (km/h) speed is the simplest method because it’s all about the number of kilometers you have traveled. In other words, the faster you go, the more kilometers you have traveled. One important note: It is always stated in the direction you are traveling in. For example, if you are going North and your GPS says your speed is 40 km/h (25 mph), you would know that you are currently traveling at a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph).
Miles per hour (MPH) speed is used mostly in aviation and it measures the rate at which something is moving, regardless of direction. For example, the rate at which a boat is moving or an airplane is flying. Just like kilometers per hour (km/h), miles per hour (MPH) speed is always stated in the direction you are traveling in. For example, if you are going North and your GPS says your speed is 40 MPH, you would know that you are currently traveling at a speed of 40 miles per hour (60 km/h).
Nautical miles per hour (NTL) is another important measure of speed when traveling by sea. This is especially useful for distance sailing and big-boat sailing where you need to know how fast you are going for safety reasons. Just like its counterpart, miles per hour (MPH), nautical miles per hour (NTL) speed is always stated in the direction you are traveling in. For example, if you are going North and your GPS says your speed is 40 NTL, you would know that you are currently traveling at a speed of 40 nautical miles per hour (67.5 km/h).
Why Are Speeds Indicated In Different Ways?
There are several important reasons why the different ways of indicating speed exist. First, kilometers per hour (km/h) are the most basic units of speed and they are easy to understand for anyone. Second, if you are in a rental vehicle, you can’t use the odometer to figure out how fast you are going because you don’t know how many kilometers (or miles) you have traveled.
Miles per hour (MPH) and nautical miles per hour (NTL) are also important measurements of speed for aviation purposes. This is because most aircraft flights are determined by the number of miles you can travel per hour. For example, the faster you want to go, the more takeoffs and landings you can make within a certain amount of time. This is why most flights these days are either slightly above or below the scheduled flight level because the pilots are trying to find the right speed to give them the best possible chance of completing their flight.
Last, but not least, there are sometimes situations where you need to know how fast someone or something else is traveling in order to keep up with them. This happens a lot with children and seniors who might not be as fast as you or I when it comes down to it. In those situations, you can use the distance to measure how long it takes you to catch up with them and then use that information to figure out how fast they are going. This is why there is sometimes a need for a third party to indicate the other person’s speed. In the photo below, the yellow arrow indicates how long it takes you to catch up with the person in red. Once you are at their speed, you know how fast they are going and you can adjust your speed to keep up with them or pass them.
The Demise Of Speed
While there are many benefits to indicating speed in different ways, there are also some drawbacks. For example, if you use your GPS to figure out how fast you are going, you won’t have a direct reference to compare it to. This makes it harder to calculate your exact speed. GPSs are also often found in cars and many of them can’t provide this information directly, especially cell phones that use GPSs for location.
Additionally, all three speeds mentioned above have an upper limit, or a maximum speed. Kilometers per hour (km/h) has a limit of 186 km/h (112 mph), miles per hour (MPH) has a limit of 186 mph (280 kph) and nautical miles per hour (NTL) has a limit of 186 kph (108 mph). When you reach these speeds, special equipment is needed to measure your speed or you will be risking damage to your vehicle or yourself. Also, above these speeds, air resistance gets more intense and it starts affecting your vehicle’s performance. That is why these speeds are considered ‘hard’ limits and things begin to become more dangerous when you are going faster than these speeds.
The Bonneville Speedways
While many other famous speedways have closed down (such as the Indianapolis Speedway and the Daytona Speedway), there are still a few that are holding onto their spots as the world waits for them to close down as well. This is partly because these tracks hold such a special place in the hearts of many and partly because of how important speed is to modern life. The three largest and most famous tracks that can be found at Bonneville are: