Rocket Ranger Bonneville World Finals report

Rocket Ranger Flies Deeper Into The World Speed Record Books WENDOVER, Utah, October 19, 2001 -- On the Bonneville Salt Flats, a place recognized by many as the world's home of high speed, a Ford Ranger driven by Mark Bill roared off toward the...

Rocket Ranger Flies Deeper Into The World Speed Record Books

WENDOVER, Utah, October 19, 2001 -- On the Bonneville Salt Flats, a place recognized by many as the world's home of high speed, a Ford Ranger driven by Mark Bill roared off toward the distant white horizon -- and further into the record books. Never before had a pickup been driven so fast in the flying mile: a speed of 205.208 m.p.h.

Mark Bill and the team with the Ford Rocket Ranger Photo: Autostock.

Mark Bill is no stranger to the best-selling small pickup in America. He is the assistant chief engineer of the Ranger and has deep automotive background, having worked in both vehicle engineering and advanced powertrain planning during his 25-year Ford career. He knows the value of pushing his product. "The experience gained through the high demands of racing pays off in everything we do," says Bill. "You can't make a mistake out here on the salt. We bring that approach back to the office, where our teams works hard to ensure Ranger is highly capably across a broad range of disciplines, from world's fastest on the salt to the winningest off-road. "

This was not the first time the Ford Rocket Ranger flew past the elusive 200 mph barrier. It achieved that mark at the Bonneville Salt Flats on August 14, 2001, with veteran driver Chuck Hemmingson at the wheel.

The Ranger was modified for the rigors of 200 mph by SPAL Advanced Technologies, of Des Moines, Iowa, with help from Ford Motor Company. In two timed passes in August, the Rocket Ranger set an official class speed record of 202.434 m.p.h., shattering the previous speed record of 187.708 m.p.h.

But there was more speed to be found.

On October 19th, at the 2001 Southern California Timing Association/Bonneville Nationals, Inc. World Finals, and now with engineer Mark Bill at the wheel, Team Rocket Ranger pushed even harder. And the efforts paid off. Bill reached speeds of nearly 206 m.p.h. and set a new two-pass record for the flying mile of 205.208 m.p.h.

The exterior of the Rocket Ranger is nearly identical to that of a stock, 2002 Ford Ranger. Indeed, to compete in the SCTA/BNI-sanctioned Modified Mid/Mini Pickup class, a vehicle must be unaltered in height, length and width; the body panels must be mounted in their original relationship to each other and the pickup bed must be fully stock and original. In the case of the Rocket Ranger, even the bed's tonneau cover is stock and available to customers.

"Budd Company is our supplier for the tonneau, and we now know it holds up at more than 200 mph," adds Bill. "No other tonneau can make that claim."

To reach speeds beyond 200 mph, Rocket Ranger's interior was stripped bare and a full roll cage and form-fitting racing seat installed. The original engine was replaced in favor of a state-of-the-art, Winston Cup-style racing engine, courtesy of Roush Industries. The 372-cubic-inch V8 engine, with its aluminum heads, four-barrel carburetor, roller cams and high ratio rocker arms, is good for nearly 800 bhp.

For Mark Bill's record run, the Ranger was modified even further from its August set up, slightly lowered in the front and with a new front air dam to better manage the airflow. The rear axle gear was also shortened, from 3.33 to 3.50, allowing the engine to turn slightly faster.

Mark Bill's record run in the Rocket Ranger comes nearly on the day marking the 100th anniversary of Ford Motor Company's involvement in racing. On October 10, 1901, company-founder Henry Ford, a struggling auto entrepreneur at the time, drove his car, "Sweepstakes," to victory over Alexander Winton -- America's premier racer at the time -- in a 10-mile race at the Detroit Driving Club in Grosse Point, Michigan. Ford's upset victory over Winton brought the seed money that eventually helped create Ford Motor Company, now the second-largest automobile company in the world.

SPAL Advanced Technologies, founded in Correggio, Italy in 1959, has been designing, producing and marketing high performance axial fans, centrifugal blowers for more than 30 years. Iowa Export -- Import is SPAL's distributor with complete engineering and warehousing operations serving all of North America.

Ford Motor Company is the world's second largest automaker, selling vehicles in 200 markets and with approximately 345,000 employees on six continents. Its automotive brands include Aston Martin, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo. Its automotive-related services include Ford Credit, Hertz and Quality Care.


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About this article
Series General
Drivers Henry Ford , Alexander Winton , Chuck Hemmingson