Now the Monster crewmen and tire engineers run and jump into several cars and burst ahead of Arfons down the salt. They take up stations a mile or so apart, well off the course. Each car contains a first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, crowbars and an ax. Each man watches tensely, intently. Except for Ed Snyder. He cannot bring himself to look. He ducks his head and listens. An ambulance plane takes off from the salt and flies down course.
Ahead of Arfons lies a 10-mile-long black line painted across the salt. The entire straightaway is 12 miles long—although he could roll farther if necessary, into a salt-slushy area at either end. At mid-course is the measured mile, where electric eyes catch the car as it streaks past. United States Auto Club timing equipment is in a small house trailer off to one side.
Arfons is starting his run at the two-and-a-half-mile marker because he plans to reach speed sooner than Breedlove—who started half a mile beyond the zero mark and took longer to accelerate. Arfons does not want to spend that much time at top speed. "The longer you're going fast," he says, "the more things can go wrong."
Alone now, sitting to the right of the line with his left wheels almost on it, he revs up the Monster. The engine spews boiling air that makes the mountains in the background dance in a shimmery haze. Art lifts his foot off the brake. The Monster leaps away, leaving a dull roar behind it, and then, behind that, a strong thump of air and then a sound that runs along the ground after the car is gone. Flashing over the horizon, trailing a plume of salt, the Monster vanishes.
At the far end, Arfons gets out of the car and walks around it. The crewmen come up, slamming on brakes and skidding their cars into a ragged semicircle around the Monster. They all gather in tightly, but nobody asks Art how fast he went. This is very bad form. Everybody knows it was not fast enough. Then, across the salt, wavering against the horizon, a white station wagon starts to take shape, rolling toward them. It is Joe Petrali, USAC chief timer, with the official times written on a scrap of paper torn from a yellow ruled legal pad. He gets out and walks directly to Arfons, and the crowd gathers around in a tight knot. This is Petrali's big moment on each run, and he always stages it for special effect. He will not report to anyone but Arfons.
"You were 436.047 through the mile," Petrali says, "and 394.382 through the kilo." He does not add any editorial comment. It is enough. Arfons nods and turns away, kicking at the salt with his toe.
The kilometer (five-eighths of a mile) is the vital portion of the run for F�d�ration Internationale de l'Automobile records. When the course is run from north to south, the kilo clocks are at the far end. The two speeds that Petrali has brought mean that the car has not been accelerating through the mile but losing speed. Running north, Arfons would have to go considerably faster. Under FIA rules he must begin a run in the other direction within one hour for there to be an official speed, which is the average of the two runs.
Then Art walks back and explains to the crew. "I shut her off in the middle of the mile 'cause I seen I didn't have it." Everybody nods solemnly and goes back to work.
They turn the Monster around, and Arfons tries again: 524.934 through the mile and 507.932 through the kilo. Then again: 541.924 through the mile, 555.346 through the kilo. He is through for the day.
Wednesday is a wasted, worrisome day. Arfons needs extra cartridges with which to fire the drag parachutes that help slow the Monster from high speeds. A charter plane bringing them is delayed. It does not arrive until an hour before sundown, when the wind is blowing up strong. Anything over 5 mph is too risky for land-speed assaults. Art wants to go anyway, but Petrali talks him out of it. Art goes out onto the flats to walk and consider his predicament.