Watch a Scratch-Built V-12 Hit 244 MPH at El Mirage

Brandan Gillogly

Racing at El Mirage is not much of a spectator sport. The 1.3-mile course is in the middle of the Southern California desert at an elevation of about half a mile. It’s not difficult to get to, but the scenery is exactly what you’d expect of a dry lake, and so are the concession options. That’s all to say that the racers are in it for the racing, not the glory.

Despite that, the engine-building duo of Pete Aardema and Kevin Braun, along with driver Cal Rothe, deserve lots of praise. They won the 2023 championship at El Mirage by setting records—and running at least 225 mph—at every meet. This year’s racing is also going well for the team, who just set a 244-mph record running their streamliner with the 920-horsepower V-12 they built pretty much from scratch. You can read all about that engine in a story we wrote back in 2021 when it was just wrapping up development.

After Aardema made it back from the lake bed, we congratulated the team and asked what was next for the car. “It’s really not a good streamliner,” Aardema said, noting that the car’s original lakester layout required wide bodywork to cover the front wheels and convert it to a streamliner. They note in the video that the bodywork didn’t help increase the speed over a previous run when it competed as a lakester. That’s fine though, as it was enough to get the C/GS record. Nitrous is on the menu for the next trip to El Mirage. The car will be converted back into a lakester when it runs next at Bonneville Speed Week this August.

While we love the 369-cubic inch V-12 and the glorious noise it makes, we’re also excited to see the next powerplant Aardeman and Braun have in store for the lakester. We don’t need any more reasons to make it to Bonneville, but in case you did, the team is currently working on a four-valve big-block Chevy engine for Speed Week. We can practically hear it tearing across the salt already.


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