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Project Sidewinder wasn’t ready until Thursday October 16th, 2001 at midnight. The World’s Finals at Bonneville had started earlier Wednesday morning. Still 700 miles away from the action in Utah, the race team simply put on stock wheels and fuel injectors, hooked up a trailer of spare parts and race gear and drove to the Salt Flats. Yes, the Sidewinder is 100% “streetable”, according to Shahoian. By Thursday afternoon the team arrived to prepare for their first licensing run Friday morning.
Friday morning Project Sidewinder driver Don Alexander strapped himself in and made a first run of 172-mph. Alexander’s second run hit 192-mph for a combined average of 182-mph, good enough to set new land speed records for a diesel pickup but still quite a bit shy of setting a new record.
Sheldon Tackett, the crew chief for the Sidewinder, said the truck handled beautifully at speed. “Up past 180-mph, wheel slip goes away from downforce aerodynamics.”
Saturday morning, after reviewing the Sidewinder’s on-board data acquisition information from Friday, tuning adjustments were made for additional qualifying runs. On the first two runs Alexander went 216-mph and returned at 218-mph to improve the record to 217-mph, ending the Ranger’s hold on the title and beating Banks Engineering’s 1990 Syclone top speed. On the third qualifying run the official timing clocks malfunctioned, but they did record an exit speed at the end of the course of 220-mph. The clocks did work properly on the fourth qualifying run, recording a measured mile at 217-mph and an exit speed of 222-mph!
Sunday morning, the Banks crew prepared the Sidewinder for another run. Part way through that run, the engine’s massive torque overwhelmed the rearend ring and pinion gear set, actually twisting off the pinion gear part-way through the run. Even with the gear failure, the Cummins-powered Dakota still coasted through for a 209 MPH clocking. When averaged with the 217 MPH speed from Saturday, another land speed record of 213.583-mph was set. These records firmly established the Sidewinder as the world’s fastest gasoline or diesel pickup.
Speed isn’t the Sidewinder’s only great attribute. With a diesel engine for a heart, the Sidewinder also gets great gas mileage. In recent tests running 70-mph over a 120-mile loop, the Sidewinder achieved a fuel economy of 21.24-mpg! Street injectors and a street computer were used to achieve these results.
Banks and Cummins aren’t through yet. Plans are already being made to return to Bonneville in August with a beefier rear gear set. In the meantime, Project Sidewinder will be tested on the drag strip, on road race courses, and on the toughest test track of all, the street.
This is one snake you definitely don’t want to tread on.
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