The Firebird competed in the A/FALT Class on the Bonneville Long Course, which is seven miles long and features the higher-speed competitors. The A indicates an engine size of 440- to 500-cid. The F stands for Fuel; the second ALT stands for Altered. The Firebird is a basically stock body car with permissible aerodynamic alterations, a roll bar and an LT1 V8. It runs as car no. 884 and competes in the 150- to 200-mph neighborhood.
To get a license to drive at Bonneville, each new driver and vehicle must demonstrate an ability to maintain stability through each of six licensing categories which are: E for those with a current state license; D for those who can run (successfully) at 125 to 149 mph; C for those who run 150 to 174 mph; B for those who run 175 to 199 mph; A for those who run 200 to 249 mph and Unlimited for those who go 300 mph or faster. In 2011, Dave Sarna drove the red Firebird 184.2 mph and his 2012 goal was to hit 200 mph on the Long Course.
Before a car can run, it has to go through Tech and be inspected by USFRA officials. This takes an hour or more the first time. Each time a car runs, it must go through Tech again. After all systems are checked or re-checked, the car then proceeds to the proper start line. Veteran competitors say that the waiting times at World of Speed are shorter than at other events, so they can make two to three times as many runs over the four days of racing in September.
On his last trip to Bonneville, Sarna made three runs in the Firebird and upped his best speed to over 192 mph. Unfortunately, the transmission failed on the third attempt. This was after replacing a pinion bearing, lowering the body, improving the aerodynamics and cutting front wheel rolling resistance. Had the overdrive automatic held up, 200 mph would have been a certainty. Sarna was disappointed, but determined to come back. “I come here to race as often as I can,” he said. “I think I do it because not many people get the opportunity.”
In addition to his dream of making it into the Bonneville 200-MPH Club, Sarna has another Bonneville dream. He would like to see someone make a movie about Bonneville racing icon Mickey Thompson and then use profits from the film to support “Save the Salt” efforts intended to keep racing alive at the Salt Flats. Despite a lot of discouraging dead ends so far, Sarna is certain that someone somewhere can help him turn his movie dream into a reality.