Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels subsidiary will help power Danny Thompson's attack on a land-speed world record next summer.
Mr. Thompson, son of the late racing legend and company namesake Mickey Thompson, is preparing to blister Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in a car designed by his father with runs in excess of 420 mph, which would eclipse the 6-year-old record of 417.02 mph for internal-combustion, wheel-driven machines.
In 1960, his father was the first American to break the 400-mph barrier on land, although he was never credited with the record because he was unable to make a required second run in the opposite direction within the allotted time.
Danny Thompson holds one speed record at Bonneville, for the C/BFALT-Class. He went 255.8 mph on Oct. 18, 2009, driving an E85-fueled 2010 Ford Mustang.
Mickey Thompson Tires will supply tires—Bonneville SLRs—and engineering support and contribute $300,000 and provide other services, such as building a special project website covering the restoration of Mickey Thompson's racecar, then called the Challenger 2.
The updated machine has been named Challenger 2.5 and will be powered by two 500-cubic-inch engines. Mr. Thompson estimated it will cost about $1.5 million to construct Challenger 2.5.
The tires for the attempt measure 24 5/8-inches in diameter, run on 4-inch-wide rims and cost $700 each. The SLR tires have less than 1/32nd inch of tread, which Mr. Thompson refers to as having “just a skin” with “very specifically wound and angled nylon so it doesn't grow” at high speeds.
Even though the car is heavy at 5,000 pounds, the tires are reliable, said Don Sneddon, advertising manager at Mickey Thompson Tires. “These tires are tested to go 590 miles an hour, so for him to go 420 is no problem.” Specialty Tires of America builds the SLR tires for Mickey Thompson. There are four sizes with one additional size being developed.
Mr. Thompson will be a spokesman and make a few appearances for the Stow, Ohio-based marketer of high-performance tires and wheels. Details of the partnership and engineering challenges were discussed at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas Nov. 1.
“It is incredibly exciting for our company to play an integral role in assisting Danny in his efforts to continue his father's legacy and achieve motorsports history,” said Ken Warner, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires' vice president of sales and marketing.
Noting that each land speed run over the measured mile will take about 62 seconds, Mr. Thompson said, “When we do all our reconnaissance runs in August we'll probably only run it on maybe 10 percent nitro (methane), maybe no nitro, maybe just alcohol, so we can make all these laps, and not lean on the motor, so we can make sure the parachutes work, make sure it steers….”
Mr. Thompson has a narrow window of opportunity for his attempt.
“You have three chances a year,” he said, “August, September and October, and if you don't get it done by October, now you have to wait another whole year. What happens is that the Bonneville Salt Flats in the winter time is a lake.”
Mickey Thompson established Max-Trac Tire Inc.—a predecessor company of Mickey Thompson Tire—in 1963 at the height of his career. He and his wife Trudy were slain in 1988 in the driveway of their home by two unidentified shooters. A former business partner, Michael Goodwin, was convicted in 2007 of murdering the couple.
Considered a racing innovator, Mr. Thompson is credited with designing and building the first slingshot dragster, with being among the first to design effective Funny Cars, and was a pioneer in bringing off-road racing into large stadiums. He competed in drag racing, oval track racing, off-road racing, etc. in addition to his land-speed record attempts.
Mickey Thompson SLR racing tires are used extensively by racers at the Bonneville Salt Flats.