Written by Olle Granlund,
the initiator and project leader for The Long Run
This report outlines the events surrounding the completion of` The Long Run´
and also includes relevant facts and figures that can be used as a reference
for future use.
Upon the introduction of the turbo-charged engine in the Saab 99 with its
increase in power it became quickly apparent that the car was ideally suited
for high speed highway driving.
During this particular time Saab did not have close access to its own test
track so the German Autobahn was used to perform high speed test schedules.
Valuable test data was attained from the Autobahn tests,often resulting in
engine design changes being made to improve reliability. It didn’t take too
long before a 60000 km high speed endurance test was performed without any
major problems being noted.
Driving on the Autobahn had its restrictions which prompted a decision being
taken at Saab to perform all high speed driving tests at the Nardo test
facility in southern Italy.
The Nardo test track was built and owned initially by Fiat,however,after a
period of time,the test track was sold and operated privately.This gave
European car manufacturers the opportunity to use the test facility and
perform for themselves high speed test schedules in safer and more favorable
The Saab 9000 was tested at Nardo throughout the whole of its development
At the Frankfurt Auto-Show in the Autumn of 1983 Mercedes Benz presented a
190 Model E , 2,3liter,16 valve engine which had been used to beat world
speed records over distances of 25000 km ,2500 miles and 50,000 km at the
Nardo test facility.
The English engine tuning company Cosworth had been assigned to develop the
cylinder head so that a maximum engine power rating of 185hk was attained. The 4-cylinder in-line engine was equipped with two overhead camshafts,16
valves and fuel-injection.The car was said to achieve a maximum speed of
This record breaking vehicle had been extensively modified i.e.the chassis
was lowered 45 mm to account for a lower front spoiler and the the rear axle
had undergone ratio changes.
Low rolling resistance Pirelli tires were also used having a rolling
resistance of 13hp at 250 kmh –the rolling resistance of standard Pirelli
tyres was noted as being 27hp at 250 kmh.
The vehicles drag coefficient (Cw) had also been measured at an impressively
I personally visited the car show in Frankfurt myself attending the launch
of Saabs 16 valve Turbo engine. It was here that I first saw Mercedes record
breaking vehicle.The vehicle had been taken directly from the test track
facility at Nardo, unwashed and with the front of the car and winscreen
areas covered with flies and insects.
I was most impressed by the achievements of Mercedes and it is here where I
began to initially start thinking of how a turbo-charged Saab 9000 would
perform in such a test ?
Saabs most recent high mileage endurance tests at Nardo in Italy with the
Saab 9000 had been completed without any major problems being noted.
Upon my return to Saab I could not stop thinking about performing such a
test. I initially contacted Bo Hellberg at Saabs competition department who
had many contacts in the Swedish car sport Association and the FIA (the
international car sport organization based in Paris) and explained for him
my thoughts and ideas.
I considered it important that the whole idea of performing the tests
remained a strict secret,at least until I had gathered more information of
just what was required. I needed more details of what was involved before I
could make a proposal to Saab´s management.
I didn’t want them to consider me as one for taking far too many risks!
Bo Hellberg found out that passenger cars were classified in four groups:-
A. Special Automobiles.
B. Series produced Touring cars (5000 units).
C. Special vehicles (jet, rocket, etc).
D. Ground effect Vehicles.
Mercedes broke their record in group A. for Special Automobiles ,their
record breaking vehicle had been lowered and extensively modified.
In Class A.several records had been broken at considerably short
distances,e.g.Audi had broken the world record at Nardo at a distance of
1000 km at a speed of 326 kmh.
The car in question was a heavily modified Audi 200 Turbo Quattro, with a
turbo charged, 5 cylinder engine developing 650 hp.
At this point it was obvious that for Saab to perform a similar test in
Class A would require enormous resources and would be very expensive.
On the other hand,a world record attempt with a car in Class B. could be a
lot easier to achieve and at a lower cost?
In Class B. there was already an existing world record at 50,000 miles
achieved in September 1983 with a Ford Comet.The car registered a world
record at an average speed of 175 kmh at Daytona
It was this record we were sure we could beat.Here then was the opening we
were looking for and where probably our best chance of success would be.
Upon a world record attempt being made the regulations state that Groups A
and B shall be combined.
Considering this it would be easier(and with a better chance of success) to
have a vehicle in Class A. which could be extensively tuned and modified. On
the other hand,such vehicles are more prone to problems affecting
reliability.This can clearly be seen by the lack of records performed at
Our conclusion then was that a totally standard vehicle taken direct from
production would be far more advantageous both in a marketing perspective
and good for the company´s reputation for quality and reliability.
Proposal to attempt a world record
With all the knowledge I had acquired I became more and more convinced that
we had a good chance of breaking a world record.Indeed it would be very nice
proving to the world what a good product SAAB was !
On the other hand should we fail it could be very embarassing for us all!
On the 1st of November 1984 I wrote a Saab internal pm outlining my proposal
to perform the test. The pm was sent to SAAB´s chief of engineering Stig
Göran Larsson ,technical director Henrik Gustafsson,director of sales Bengt
Ödman and PR director Hans Thörnqvist.
Stig-Göran reacted quickly and indicated that he thought my proposal was
very interesting but he felt we should wait until 5000 Saab 9000´s with the
new 16 valve engine had been built.This was also the volume required for the
vehicle to be classified as being series produced.
Time passed by without any direct response from upper management to my PM
until one particular day in February 1985 when I was called up on the phone
by Saabs managing director Sten Wennlo.
Sten informed me that he had read the pm that I had written.His immediate
reaction to it was short and concise saying it was a good suggestion and
that we should start work on it immediately.
At first I was not sure if I was hearing correctly which made me a little
hesitant in replying …..
Then Sten started to get a little irritated saying sharply, `don’t you
believe in what you have written?
I was forced to quickly change my tone somewhat and stated that the
suggestion was indeed well founded and completely thought through.
His final words were then `OK lets go for it ´.
Pre test initiation
Following the telephone call with Sten Wennlo,which basically gave us the
green light to go ahead and make the test ,it didn’t take too long for Saabs
special project team to evaluate the implications of performing such a test. Below are some of the general concerns ,questions and areas which needed
immediate attention :-
-Clarification of the legal regulations.
-Creation of a Project team and organization.
-Choice of test track.
-Homologation of the Saab 9000.
-Generate a detailed time plan.
-Generate a preliminary budget.
-Establish contact with possible sponsors.
Bo Hellberg spoke with his contacts at FIA and had received clarification in
certain areas. One of them being the reasons why there had not been a high
speed record broken with cars in category B.
On the 2 May 1986 a meeting was held together with a SAE conference in
Chicago with Burdette Martin who was the chief at ACCUS (Automobile
Competition Committee for the US).
The following staff from Saab were at the meeting: Bo Hellberg ,Steven
Rossi, Per Gillbrandt and myself Olle Granlund.
The main topic of the meeting was to discuss the organization and planning
of the test.
One of the most important decisions taken was that NASCAR ( National
Association for Stock Car Auto Racing )would be responsible for controlling
the test and would have their own time keepers and controllers following up
activities in the pit area. Les Richter was given total responsibility at
NASCAR along with Joe Elton the chief steward.
From Saab, Brage Sundström was responsible for contact with NASCAR.
Looking back I can safely say that we established a very good working
relationship with the staff at ACCUS and NASCAR.
Homologation / Classification
The FIA is the organizations that approves all speed records and require
that vehicles used for the tests have been homologated in a similar manner
as for all other competition vehicles.
The Saab 9000 with the new 16 valve engine was not initially homologated. Brage Sundström started work immediately on getting the vehicles certified.
On the 1st of July a certificate of compliance was received.
The Project organization
Once all initial concerns surrounding the tests were discussed and accounted
for it was time to appoint the Project Team. It was felt most important that
the organization consisted of staff that were experienced in specific areas.
The project team was formed including the following members of staff
- Project Leader.
- Test vehicles,
- Service Program,
- Mechanics training,
- Pit manager
- Transport of vehicles,
- Tools ands Special
Sponsorship / Contracts
Saab Sweden and
Saab USA coordinator
A well formulated time schedule was also necessary in order to keep track of
the projects activities, many of which were needed to be performed
simultaneously.Several sub-project leaders were also appointed having
clearly defined roles of responsibility within the project.Regular meetings
were held discussing the time schedule.In general everything flowed without
problem and set milestones were reached on time.
The financial Budget
A preliminary cost analysis was made in order to gain a reasonable idea of
the money needed to be budgeted for in completing such a test.Initially a
figure of 6,5 msek, was calculated as being needed. This excluded
sponsorship costs for fuels, oils and tires etc.
In depth discussions took place regarding sponsorship with many companies
but we decided that it would be best for Saab to work together with 3 main
Shell was responsible for the delivery of fuels and oil in accordance with
the test regulatations and the requirements of SAAB. The regulations
stipulated that fuel in accordance with national specifications of the land
where the vehicle is manufactured shall be used.
Shell in the US later refined a 98 octane fuel according to Swedish
specifications at its refinery in Houston ,Texas. The fuel was later
transported to Talladega in large fuel delivery trucks along with equipment
for filling the test cars.Approximately 75000 liters of fuel per car was
calculated as being required.
The choice of tires used for testing the vehicles would play a vital role in
the completion of the test.
A recommendation from Pirelli staff working at Talladega was that normal
standard tires would offer the best performance and durability.
Pirelli´s staff were very familiar with tire wear and separation that had
caused problems for many manufacturers performing high speed tests on race
A pre-test was performed in September 1985 at Talladega allowing Pirelli´s
engineers to determine if tire temperatures and wear patterns were at an
acceptable level.Their final recommendation was that the ideal tire for
completing the test would be a Pirelli P600,225/55/VR15.
An additional advantage for this particular tire was it also performed well
in wet weather driving conditions.
This proved also to be true during a heavy rain storm that occurred during
The Turbo manufacturers Garrett were eager to be a sponsor and in return for
this they required continual technical data feed back of the Turbo chargers
performance throughout the pre test.
At that time there was a great deal of doubtfulness surrounding the use of
turbo chargers within the motor industry. This maybe was an ideal chance for
Garrett to prove once and for all that their modern water cooled turbo
charger was capable of enduring extreme driving conditions?
Choice of race track
The regulations stipulated that the race track should be either oval or
completely circular with curves running in the same direction.
The number of European tracks fulfilling these regulations was very limited. One alternative high on Saabs list of preferences was the high speed test
facility at Nardo in Southern Italy.
Saab had been using this particular track for development work for some
The track was identical to the regulations in such that it was completely
round covering a distance of 12,8 km. The climatic conditions in the area
were also very favourable.
A special characteristic of a large diametercircular track is that drivers
hardly notice that they are actually driving on a circular track –drivers
tend to get the feeling as if the vehicle is being driven in a straight
This is particularly advantageous for keeping tire wear down to a minimum.
Initially it was Saabs desire to hire for themselves the Nardo test facility
for a period of 3 weeks. This was however rejected by the track owners due
to contracted commitments with other manufactures that needed to use the
Another race track in Italy was Monza. The oval track here unfortunately had
not been used for a considerable amount of time and was in such poor
condition that testing there was quickly rejected.
The third and final track in Europe to be considered was Monttlhery in
France which was completely round with steep banking. Driving on such a
track would however cause the chassis to bottom out on one side causing high
loading on the chassis components and excessive wear on the tires.
This track was by no means suitable for performing such a test.
The search for a track to perform the test on in Europe was interrupted and
the race tracks in the USA i.e. Bonneville, Indianapolis, Daytona and
Talladega were considered as being suitable alternatives.
Saabs contact person in the US Steven Rossi was contacted who later made a
full examination of interesting race tracks.
Talladega was judged to be the best option and would be ideal for performing
our attempt on a world record.
On the 12 august 1985 ,Steven and I visited Talladega primarily to gain a
general impression of the race track and also to discuss with staff at
Talladega just what arrangements were needed,should we decide to test there.
We managed to get a good working relationship with the chief of Talladega
speedway ,Don Namen and cooperation was further strengthened as the test
progressed. I felt that the staff at the racetrack had a high respect for
Saab and we learnt that they felt that we were one of the best teams that
had used the Talladega race track.Indeed a nice recognition !
Talladega Race Track
The Talladega race track is officially named the Alabama International Motor
Speedway and was built in 1968 on an old military airfield. The race track
is used for stock car racing i.e. The Winston 500 is twice a year driven
there and is considered to be the fastest track in the USA. A world speed
record was made on this track by Mark Donahue in a Porsche 917 achieving a
speed of 355 kmh.
The highest speed for stock cars was set by Cale Yarborough in a Chevrolet
Monte-Carlo SS at a speed of 325 kmh.Indeed very impressive results.
Winston 500 race, 150 000 spectators.
The Talladega speedway was designed by Bill France and is known as being
`tri-oval ´ i.e. having two curves with 33° banking angles and one further
curve with a banking angle of 18°.
To be able to use the Talladega race track for setting a world record the
FIA required that the racing track was fully certified and precisely
measured. This had earlier been done upon a record attempt undertaken by
Audi ,so for us at Saab it was just a matter of starting our test.
The race tracks length is 4,28 km measured 36 inches from the tracks inner
diameter and has seating accommodation for 75000 stock car spectators and
room for a further 70000 spectators on the inside track areas.
Upon a manufacturer using the race track all safety arrangements have to be
in operation. During the time Saab was using the race track the following
was included in the cost of hiring the track :-
- A medical room and ambulance staff on 24 hour duty.
- 3-4 fire tenders with fire fighting teams strategically placed around the
On the first evening of driving the lack of lighting around the track made
driving difficult especially in the banked curves.Extra spotlights fitted to
the vehicle didn’t improve matters either.
A reflective line painted on the tracks inner radius could have improved the
situation however NASCAR rejected this due to the claimed small glass
particles in the reflecting paint would cause damage to the tires of
vehicles competing in the Winston 500 race.
The final solution was to have the race track´s yellow warning lights
activated close to the approaches into the banked curves.
Also assisting drivers was a continual white line painted on the inner
radius of the track.
Driving on the Talladega race track
Driving at 175 km/h vehicles remain in a state of balance (equilibrium) when
driving on the banked curves of the track (Ref: diagram ) however,the Saab
test car was going to be travelling at considerably higher speeds i.e.at
speeds between 225-230 kmh which affected the vehicles aerodynamic stability. Side acceleration increased to 0,47g with a corresponding vertical
acceleration of 1, 5 g (ref: diagram).
Ref diagram A.Vehicle in state of balance (equilibrium) on the banked
B.Side and vertical forces.
These adverse conditions caused the vehicle to have a tendency to slide
somewhat.A slip-angle of 1,5 degrees was measured (certain video clips from
the tests can be seen confirming this).
Vehicle in state of balance (equilibrium) on the
banked curves. Side and vertical forces.
A check of the chassis settings during driving revealed also changes in
front axle loadings. The loads on the front axle changed from 928 kg to 1290
kg and from 649 kg to 902 kg on the rear axle.
At an early stage Saab had a clear understanding of the value of performing
a pre test and the chance to gain important test data regarding fuel
consumption,tire wear,high speed handling characteristics and general
On the 28th August 1985 a meeting was held with Saabs upper management Sten
Wennlo, Bengt Ödman, Rolf Sandberg and Stig –Göran Larsson which resulted in
management approval to perform the pre test.
Saabs target for the test was to drive the car non-stop for 20000 km at a
speed in excess of 200 kmh The test was calculated to take 1 week to
For the pre test at Talladega a fully checked
and precisely measured engine was sent from Trollhättan to Saab USA.This
engine was later fitted in one of their Saab 9000 fleet vehicles.
The car was later driven from New Haven in Connecticut to the Talladega
Speedway in Alabama.This was considered to be a suitable running in distance
for the engine.
Once all the test arrangements had been accounted for i.e. Fuel from Shell,
compressed air for the tire changes and a trailer/caravan to be used by time
keepers etc, it was time to start the test.
Would we get the positive results we were hoping for? A positive result was
needed and the determining factor as to whether or not a full test and
record attempt would be performed a year later.
Pre test personel:-
Fuel delivery from
Driver, mechanic ,
Driver Project leader,
We stayed at the Hotel Colony House situated only five minutes drive to the
speedway which was ideally situated for drivers to quickly return to and get
some well earned rest when needed. The trailer/caravan at the service pit
also had a relax area and bed for the drivers to use between their driving
At 08.25 on Monday the 30 September 1985 it was time to start the pre
test.The weather was perfect with an air temperature at the start of the
test of 20 °C.
A great deal of metrological data was examined to establish the ideal time
to complete the test. This data was obtained from an old air base which had
records of climatic conditions during 50 years. The month of October was
selected as being the best month to test with its relatively low temperature
and little rain.
Unfortunately the particular week that Saab was in Talladega the heavens
opened above us with two heavy storms passing over the race track.In 5
minutes ,16 mm of rainfall was measured during the storm !
Our service pit did not have a roof to shelter from the storm so a decision
to momentarily stop the driving of the vehicle was taken. Prior to the storm
the pre test car had been performing perfectly.
Below is a summary of the test data that was noted during the pre test :-
Total laps driven:
Total driving time incl
Total number of pit stops
Total laps on a full tank
Average speed between
Average speed inclusive
Exhaust gas temp.
Engine oil temp.
Turbo boost pressure at
20 047 km
202, 8 kmh
2, 9 l / 10 km.
At 565,5 km of driving the engine cut out due to water in the fuel system. A
water separator would be need to be included in the fuel filling equipment
for the main test.
At 612,4 km the exhaust gas temperature had increased to ca 925°C. To
rectify this the ignition timing was retarded by 1 degree which decreased
the exhaust gas temperature by 10 degrees.
After 1078,5 km the exhaust gas temperature had increased to 925 °C. To
counteract this fuel system pressure was increased from 2,8 bar to 3,0 bar
,this also lowered the exhaust gas temperature by 10 °C.
It was also noted that lap times increased by 0,5 seconds when the main
headlights were activated and that worn tyres also caused exhaust gas
temperature to increase by 25°C. Engine speeds also correspondingly
increased by 200 rpm.
Maximum cold tire pressure for the Pirelli P600 tires was 3,2 bar on the
front axle,3 0 bar for the rear axle.Warm tyres caused tire pressures to
increase to 4-5 bar.
On the 5 October at 02.00 hours and after 6 days of driving we had reached
our target mileage and the pre test vehicle was given the chequered flag
across the finishing line
The staff at Talladega were initially very doubtful of us managing to
complete the pre test,however they soon changed their negative view as the
tests got underway.
Saab had proved that the final target mileage (100000km)was within reach
,something that no other manufacturer had previously done.
We learned that Audi was in fact at Talladega 14 days earlier with an Audi
Quattro reported to have an engine developing 800 hp and with a potential
top speed of 350 kmh!
Unfortunately their test was quickly aborted due to tyre separation after
only 3-4 laps on the race track.
Audi had the professional NASCAR driver Bob Unser driving their car,we
learned later that Bob was not highly comfortable with the vehicles
aerodynamic performance at high speed.
Audi nevertheless had a vehicle fully capable of speeds in excess of 300 kmh
which in itself is very impressive.
We gained valuable experience from performing the pre test and knowing that
we had safely completed our target mileage we were now convinced that we had
a very good chance at setting a new world record when the official test was
to be performed.
We returned to Sweden to analyze in more detail the results from the
pre-test and in March 1986 we presented our conclusions to Saabs upper
management.The overall opinion was very positive and Saab´s management
approved that a world record attempt could be started.
The main strategy regarding the choice of drivers was to assign
responsibility to test engineers from Saabs technical department; these were
experienced test drivers who were frequently at the wheel of experimental
By using these drivers we gained quick technical feed back of the vehicles
performance which could be quickly relayed to individual technical
departments at Saab.
Another advantage was that upon problems arising at Talledega we could get
immediate technical help from the experts on site.
However ,it wasn’t all Saab technical
development personnel who in fact drove the vehicles. The team also included
the well known Saab 96 rally driver Erik `On the roof´ Carlsson , rally
cross driver Anders Norsteadt and Göran Johansson known for his driving in
many race competitions for Saab in France.
In total 32 drivers were involved throughout the whole test. One person who
should have been present was Mr. Per Gilbrand (The father of the Saab
Turbo-charged engine ) although the management staff in Södertälje where he
worked and where engine research and development took place felt that the
driving of vehicles at Talladega was Saab in Trollhättans responsibility.
A person needing also to be mentioned here is Ove Hasselberg who was a
member of the driving team and drove more than 5000 laps he said himself
that he `knew the road very well indeed´ !
TThe Driving Schedule
The driving schedule drawn up for the test consisted of 2 hours of
driving followed by a rest period of 2 hours, thereafter a further 2
hours of driving and 2 hours of rest. After an 8 hour rest (sleep)
period the schedule was repeated three times. After 3 full driving
schedules,equaling 40 hours, drivers then had 16 hours free to relax.
It soon became apparent that driver tiredness was creeping in. This was
not surprising considering the high concentration levels needed when
driving the vehicles flat out at full throttle on the banked race track.
Drivers often found that the intake of food
during rest periods had a negative effect on their subsequent 2 hour
driving schedule. All drivers and mechanics nevertheless did their best
to survive the tiring driving schedule.Thankfully, as time passed, the
team became more climatized to the conditions and were also inspired
furthermore by the positive results that we were getting.
Driving Licenses /Training
Performing a world record attempt at Talladega was considered by the FIA
to be equal to an International car race. This meant that all drivers
performing the test were required to hold a valid International
competition driving license.
Many of the appointed drivers needed to quickly apply for such a
A further requirement of the FIA is that each driver was registered as a
member of an established motor club.
The Swedish Motor Club in Trollhättan quickly found themselves with 23
Prior to the test it was difficult to forsee how each driver would react
to the irregular working hours and the psychological stress in
combination with such short recovery times.
Each driver’s physical condition and general health was checked
Irregular meal and rest times was thought to have a negative effect on
drivers so leading physiotherapist Janne Carlstedt from Bosön in
Stockholm ,Sweden was invited to inform drivers of what they should
expect and how to prepare themselves for this event.
First, it was vitally important that drivers needed to be in a good
physical condition and able to withstand the stressful driving
conditions that would be encountered at Talladega.
It was well known that people having a reduced physical condition react
slower in a stressful environment.
It was also important that drivers had the availability of food that
they were accustomed to.A long list of typical Swedish food and menus
was therefore sent to the catering company responsible for preparing the
food at Talladega.
A special restaurant area outside the pit was also available for drivers
Selection of Vehicles/Transport.
The regulations permit 3 vehicles being selected from production which
are sealed and driven to their first service at 1000 km.After the
service one of the 3 vehicles is then selected for performing the main
In our case we could select 9 vehicles from production as our ambition
was to perform the main test with 3 vehicles.
To check that all went according to the regulations we assigned Notorius
Publicus in the name of advocate Mr Kent Eriksson.
The selections of vehicles were made from vehicles parked in Saabs
production car park and had been manufactured between 25-28 August 1986.
At 14.30 on the 28 th August 1986 ,powertrain components on the selected
vehicles were affixed with stamped seals by Mr Håkan Junfors from the
Swedish Racing Car Association.
Four stamped seals were added marked with the identification GP01 on the
following power train components:-
- Engine cylinder block /cylinder-head/valve cover.
- Engine cylinder block / clutch cover housing
- Induction air inlet / outlet sides of the Turbo
- Engine oil sump
Notarius Publicus certificate.
Sealing Power-train components with plumb-bobs.
picture to enlarge.)
After the vehicles initial drive-in period of 1000 km was performed on
general roads around Trollhättan, the stamped seals were broken by staff
from Notarius Publicus ,which later permitted engines to be correctly
With the knowledge we gained during the running-in period four vehicles
were rejected. The remaining five vehicles were later added with new
stamped seals by Junfors.
To fully stress the engines of the 5 selected vehicles a visit was made
to Volvos high speed test facility in Hällered.The purpose of this test
was to ensure that the engines would perform satisfactorily at high
speed and that no hidden problems would materialize during the record
attempt at Talladega.
The next step was to select the three individual
vehicles that were to be used for the test. This was not an easy task, but
following in depth technical discussions with engineering specialists within
Saabs technical development centre the choice of 3 vehicles was finally
Three silver coloured Saab 9000´s were selected.
Stipulatory race safety equipment i.e. full roll cage and 4 point safety
belts were needed to be later installed in each vehicle along with
fire-proof overalls and crash helmets for each driver.
The selected vehicles were allocated numbers 1-3. At night time, a number of
small lights positioned on the inside of the each vehicles rear quarter
light were illuminated to give a clear indication to the time-keepers of the
exact car that was passing.
Experiences from the pre test showed that it was possible for drivers to be
unaware that they were not driving at full throttle. This could be observed
from longer lap times.
To assist drivers and guarantee that the throttle was always at 100% a
warning light was activated on the instrument panel showing when the
throttle was not in the wide open position.
The engines exhaust gas temperature gives a clear indication and information
of just how effective the engine is running. A lean mixture strength or
incorrect ignition timing noticeably causes exhaust temperatures to increase
and could lead to damage to the exhaust valves and the turbo chargers
To monitor the exhaust gas temperature a temperature gauge was fitted to
each vehicle relaying valuable information to drivers.
All vehicles were manufactured according to the standard equipments level
without a power consuming AC compressor.
Once all initial checks and preparations had been completed at Saab in
Trollhättan the vehicles we finally ready for transport to Talladega in the
Kenth Johansson was assigned responsibility for managing transportation of
the vehicles and once all were safely secured on the car-transporter in
Trollhättan it was time for the drive to Frankfurt airport in Germany where
Lufthansa flight LH 468 was waiting to fly the vehicles over to Atlanta in
The vehicles arrived safely in Atlanta at 07.30 on the 4th October 1986
where representatives from NASCAR were waiting to ensure that vehicles were
safely removed from the aircraft and loaded on to an awaiting car
transporter for the drive to the Talladega Speedway in Alabama. Checks were
also frequently made to see that all the stamped seals on the engines had
not been broken during transport.
On 18-23 August 1986 a meeting was held at the Talladega speedway to ensure
that pit requirements were fulfilled.
Attending the meeting were representatives from Saab and the three` Long Run
´sponsors, Shell, Pirelli and Garrett.
From Saab in Trollhättan Bo Swaner was assigned responsibility for the
design, construction and general working amenities of the service Pit.
From Saab USA Steven Rossi, David Raney and Mary Knowlton assisted in
assigning carpenters ,painters ,electricians etc to build a fully functional
service pit where the vehicles could be safely fuelled ,serviced and the
quick change of drivers. The actual service pit was designed with a sloping
roof to protect from adverse weather conditions and could comfortably hold 2
vehicles requiring service simultaneously.
The fuel for the test was supplied by Shell and was transported to Talladega
in large tanker-trucks along with a separate pump capable of filling the
test vehicles at a flow rate of 120 l/min.The vehicles standard fuel tank (
modifications to the filler-pipe was not permitted ) took only 35 seconds to
Pelle Rudh in the pit areas communication centre.
The service-pit was also equipped with compressed air lines to drive the
power tools and to quickly change tires etc.
To ensure that sufficient compressed air was available a large heavy- duty
compressor was installed.
With the adverse weather experiences we gained
from the pre test a diesel driven generator which could be quickly started
upon the event of a electrical power failure was also required.
In the pit area a mobile trailer was used as an office and a communication
center. Radio communication to and from the cars was also installed
permitting important information to be quickly transmitted to drivers. It
was also here that number of laps and lap times were officially recorded.
In the drivers rest area there was also a trailer including catering
Each vehicle was allowed to carry spare- parts weighing a total of 5 %
of the total vehicle weight plus 20 kg. In our case 87 kg was allowed.The
spares were packed in an aluminum box anchored to the floor panel under the
rear seat of each vehicle.
Prior to the start of the test a list of selected spare parts and their
respective weight was sent to NASCAR who later inspected the parts upon
their arrival at Talladega.
It is important to note here that each vehicle started the test as an
individual vehicle this meant that spare parts assigned to one particular
car could not be used for any other car.
The choice of spare parts was therefore given careful consideration. The
main criteria for selection was that only components that couldn’t be
repaired should be included.
Examples of such components were:-Electronic ECM ,Alternator, Electronic
relays, Wheel- bearings, Turbo-charger and Cylinder head.
representative checking that spare
parts were in accordance with each vehicles
list of spares.
An exception was made for larger components i.e. exhaust system, windscreen
etc which remained at the pit area.
Timekeeping, pit control
As mentioned earlier the FIA appointed NASCAR as the controlling body and
vehicles were required to follow the regulations set by FIA.
Each vehicle was originally required to have transponders registering
completed laps and lap times. This equipment would however cease to function
should a loss of electricity in the Pit area due to thunder storms etc be
encountered. This led to the decision to measure lap and lap times
manually,3 lap counters, 1 for each car and one in reserve at the control
tower were needed during 24 hours.
In total NASCAR had 25 controllers involved in the control and follow up of
vehicles in the pit area.
NASCAR time and lap-keepers.
Registration of lap and lap-times etc. NASCAR pit control.
The NASCAR controllers were indeed kept very busy throughout the test. The
data from three vehicle driving in excess of 1000 laps per day demanded
extremely high concentration and close involvement of them so that lap times
were correctly registered.
At the start of the tests we had a feeling that NASCARs representatives had
their doubts about us being able to complete the test. We could hear them
saying ` this won´t take long´`and `It with be all over within a week ´ and
`There isn’t a vehicle in the world that can be driven flat out for 100,000
km on this speedway?
The start of The Long Run
After all the preparations it was time to start the challenge, at 08.00 on
the 7 October 1986,Les Richter waved the starting flag to the first test
vehicle and I was behind the wheel.
START 08:00 7 oktober 1986
It was very important to get a good start. The
first record distance was a relatively short 10 km covering barely 2 laps of
the 4,28 km long race-track. Our target was that from a standing start
reach an average speed of min.200 kmh. This was achieved with a measured
vehicle speed of 202,798 kmh.
Before the vehicle returned to the pit for the first time the highly
acclaimed International record for standard vehicles during one hour of
driving was also broken at an average speed of 220,449 kmh.
Our chase for more records continued and during the first 24 hours of
driving 13 International distance and time records had been broken.These
records were noted as both Swedish and American
Swedish in the fact that the records had been broken using a Swedish
manufactured vehicle and American in the fact that the test took place in
The two remaining vehicles later started the Long Run placed 20 minutes
apart from each other.
The cars were performing like clock-work.
The driving schedule that was determined from experiences from the earlier
pre-test functioned perfectly in respect to fuel tank filling and tire
changes. Fuel consumption was measured as being 27 liters / 100 km and it
took an hour of driving to empty the 60 liter fuel tank.
Subsequent filling of the fuel tank in the pit took only 30-35seconds to
perform thanks to Shell´s well trained staff.
Concerning tire-wear : During the pretest it was already noticed that wear
was occurring most of all on the inside of the left front tyre.
We estimated that the total tires that were going to be needed during the
whole test could be significantly reduced by switching the front tires with
After 6 hours of driving the front tires were switched and then replaced
with new ones after 12 hours of driving.
After 24 hours of driving the rear tyres were then replaced
At Talladega the gear-box is subjected to very special loadings which place
high demands on internal components and lubrication.
The only gear changes that took place during the test was when drivers left
the pits after refueling. Here the drivers accelerated quickly through the
gears until 5th gear is engaged. After this there were no more gear-changes
needed until the next pit stop.
The Saab 9000 gearbox was designed not to require any oil changes throughout
its normal service life
Below is an account of the most important events that took place during the
It is important to note that the vehicles standard service schedule was
Standard practices were employed throughout the complete test.
After 1134 km of driving vehicle No3 was noticed to have a coolant leak from
the water pump. The pump was replaced in a time of 15 minutes and the test
After 2150 km mechanics changing the tires on vehicle No1 noticed that
grease was leaking from a drive shaft constant velocity joint. New grease
was packed into the joint and the clip securing the protective rubber boot
was tightened. Vehicles 2 and 3 were also later checked.
The driver in vehicle No3 reported that exhaust gas temperature was
exceeding the 950 °C maximum temperature set for the test.
This created some concern as it coincided with the fuel tank reaching empty.
A possible cause for the high temperature was thought to be that the fuel
feeder pump in the fuel tank was running dry
The consequence of this being that at the end of each driving pass the
engines fuel mixture became too lean ,leading to an increase in exhaust gas
temperature and possible damage to the exhaust valves.
A quick decision was therefore taken to reduce the amount of laps driven
between tank filling, 45 laps instead of 50.Each vehicle was later also
checked to see if the feeder pump in the fuel tank was positioned correctly.
The turbo boost -pressure was checked and minor adjustments were made on all
The fuel pump was changed on vehicle No 2. High noise levels from the pump
indicated that damage had taken place on account of lack of fuel.
It started to rain very heavily saturating the whole of the race-track!
Local radio stations reported that thunder -storms were to affect the whole
of Alabama 30mm of rain could should be expected to fall during the coming
Suddenly all the lights went out in the pit on account of a power–cut
,Thanks to our diesel driven generator it took only three minutes for
lighting to be restored.
Concerns focused on the drivers and if it was possible for them to continue
to drive the vehicles in such heavy rain and extremely poor visibility?
The NASCAR controllers simply shook their heads stating that, ‘here in the
USA all stock- car races are immediately stopped as soon as it starts to
NASCAR officials had earlier indicated that they were willing to stop the
clock and further driving if weather conditions became too bad.
The Saab team decided that despite the adverse weather conditions they would
nevertheless continue to drive the vehicles. We had after all decided that
the test should be run non –stop and with no delays on account of bad
The wet weather however affected the vehicles rolling resistance. Top speeds
were reduced by 15 kmh,increasing lap times by 2 seconds.
The Pirelli P600 tires performed extremely well in the wet driving
The regular 20000 km service was later performed on all vehicles.
11- 14 October
Nothing out of the ordinary noted ,monotony though creeping in.
Regular 40 000 km service performed on all vehicles
Oil leakage noted from the power-steering hose on vehicle No 1 –the hose was
replaced and driving continued.
The air- cleaners were replaced on all three vehicles.
Vehicle No 3. Concerns for the high exhaust gas temperature being 30 °C
above the maximum allowable 950 °C. Fault most probably on account of a
malfunctioning pressure regulator and incorrect fuel system pressure.
Despite all precautionary measures vehicles 1 and 3 continue to be losing
At 52776 km respective 58207 km both vehicles were stopped from further
driving to perform a cylinder compression test. The result revealed that one
cylinder had extremely low compression indicating that the most probable
cause of this was due to a damaged exhaust valve.
The project manager decide to have the cylinder head removed from the engine
to make a check on the condition of the exhaust valves. On close examination
the exhaust valves in cylinder 1 and cylinder 2 were seen to be damaged.
Instead of replacing and lapping in new exhaust valves a completely new
cylinder head-included in the vehicles list of spare parts - was fitted. For
safety reasons the turbo charger on vehicle No 3 was also changed it was
thought that small segments of the exhaust valves may have broken off and
had caused damage to the turbo charger turbine.
Exhaust gas temperatures exceeding 950 °C during long periods of time can
lead to damage of the exhaust valves sealing surfaces causing them to leak.
It is important to point out that under normal driving conditions the
exhaust valves perform satisfactorily as such high temperatures are seldomly
Regular 60000km service on vehicles 1 and 3 performed. Oil leakage again on
vehicle No1 from the power steering pump. New hose fitted. Initial problem
due to a small crack on the pump bracket. Damage caused most probably to
Rain again ! Difficult driving conditions due to to heavy rain and poor
visibility. Certain drivers try to follow the white line on the inner
track,others stay close to the outer safety wall.
Due to the excessive rain a lot of water had accumulated at entrance lane to
the pit. This caused certain problems for the skilled rally driver Kjell
Olofsson as he returned his vehicle to the pit.
Despite all of Kjells rallying experience he approached the water a little
too fast causing his car to aquaplane and skid off on to the surrounding
There was no visible damage to the vehicle so a new driver took over.
It wasn’t long however before the new driver indicated that something was
wrong, heavy vibrations were felt from the front wheels as the vehicle
The vehicle was called back to the pit and the front left wheel was removed. This revealed that a large amount of grass and mud had become packed
between the wheel rim and the tire. A new wheel and tire was fitted solving
Erik Carlsson ( on the roof ) had his own theories to the incident and
speculated that Kjell had driven far too slowly that day and that a bird had
had sufficient time to build a nest in the wheel rim !
Vehicle No 3 was losing power again. A detailed inspection indicated that No
1 piston was damaged
The engine was approved to be removed and a new piston was fitted along with
the earlier changed turbo-charger unit.
The mechanics performed this task in 2h and 49 minutes -even that must be a
record in itself !
Bear in mind also that the engine was red hot after coming directly from the
test track when the work started!
Good that we had such skillful mechanics with us!
Brake pads were changed on vehicle No 1. During the test the brakes are
seldom used other than braking from 220 km/h to 0 kmh at every pit stop.
A condition that’s considered to be hard on the brakes but quite normal for
the braking system to withstand.
Vehicle No 2 noted with low power due to exhaust valve damage on cylinder 3.
A new cylinder head was fitted.
Regular 80000 km service performed on all vehicles.
Vehicle No3 - Fuel Pump noise. Fuel feeder pump replaced.
Vehicle No 1. Low power noted. Removal of the cylinder-head and exhaust
valve replaced on cylinder number 2.
All three vehicles approaching 80000 km ( 50000 miles ).The first world
record being well in our sights.
At 01.00h I drove vehicle No 2 into the pit for its 80000 km service. A new
world record at 50000 miles (80465 km) had been made at an average speed of
Champagne corks were popping but unfortunately only a small drop allowed for
me - I was required to keep driving!
NASCARs controllers and officials had now ceased to be surprised by our
achievements and happily joined in the celebrations with us.
Low engine power reported on vehicle No3 due to exhaust gas leakage Cyl
1.New exhaust valve fitted.
The ignition timing on vehicle No 2 was adjusted due to high exhaust
Tiredness was noticeably creaping in on team members which was hardly
surprising following the irregular 8 hour driving passes together with the
relatively short breaks for a rest.
Despite this the moral within the team is good and further inspiration being
gained by the fact that the first world record had already been broken
(50000 miles) and the count- down to achieving the magical 100000 km world
record had started.
At 08.12 local time the first vehicle (No.2) completed 100000 km of driving
and our dream of setting the magical world record had been fulfilled with a
registered average speed of 213,299 kmh(132,542 mph )
I was given the honor of driving the vehicle over the final lap.What a
fantastic feeling of satisfaction and achievement it gave me.After two years
of hard work preparing for the test our goal had been reached.
During the night the remaining other two vehicles passed the magical
100000km.Car No 1 with an official average speed of 210,081 kmh and car No3
with an official average speed of 208,804 kmh.
Despite this the LONG RUN continued.
It wasn’t long before the news of the world record reached the motoring
press and the following afternoon we were visited by several leading
motoring journalists who had specially chartered an aircraft to join us at
The finishing line ….08.12,27
October 1986 …A new world record …
At four o´clock after 105000 km of driving
NASCARs´chief controller Les Richter waved the finishing - flag in front of
all three vehicles travelling side by side over the finishing line.
The LONG RUN was over.
2 World records all categories
The large notice-board outside the
Talladega racetrack acknowledging
The staff at Talladega were equally proud of Saabs achievements and to show
their appreciation Saabs world record was displayed on the large notice
board outside the entrance to the speedway
Our achievements quickly became acknowledged even within the American motor
industry. Chrysler had shown particular interest from an early stage of the
test frequently contacting the Talladega staff for news of how the tests
Their interest was presumably on account that Chrysler had included a turbo
-charger in the
design of the Chrysler Le Baron´s 2, 2 liter engine.
Chrysler were reported to have been having certain quality problems so they
were extremely interested to learn just what Saab had done to make their
engines function so well?
Barbecue celebration party
On the 28 of October a large celebration barbecue was organized for all
people taking part in the Long Run at Talladega.
The party was a huge success and our American friends and colleagues
celebrated our achievements with us.Erik Carlsson with all his rallying
achievements stated that The Long Run was one of the best motoring
experiences he had been involved in throughout his career.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is an American organization
overlooking developments within the American motor industry. Members of the
organization have direct access to published automotive articles and reports
etc and can attend several of the SAE conferences frequently organized
throughout the world.
The positive reaction within the motor industry that the Long Run had
created prompted Saab, together with Garrett the turbo manufacturer to write
a detailed technical SAE paper of the event performed in Talladega.
The SAE paper No 870733 was compiled jointly by Brage Sundström , Kenth
Johansson, myself Olle Granlund , Steven Rossi , and Torsten Åman.
Certain SAE reports are selected to be presented verbally at a SAE
conference. The Long Run was considered to be of such interest that a
presentation of the paper was later made on 22 January 1997 in Monte-Carlo.
on picture to enlarge.)
I personally made this presentation which
concluded with several engineering related questions being raised.
At that particular moment in time turbo -chargers had started to become
interesting for automobile manufacturers throughout the world.
According to Garratt Saabs testing at Talladega had positively influenced
car manufacturers considering using turbo chargers in their engine design.
Honoring our achievements
On the 6 the of December 1986 Saabs achievement in The Long Run at Talladega
was honored by the Swedish sports car association at their 50th anniversary
banquet held in Stockholm.
Sten Wennlo receiving a victory laurel-wreath and Olle Granlund the
gold medal from HRH Prince Bertil.
The gala celebration was held in The Blue Hall,in Stockholm´s Town hall.
We were also honored at the FIA´s annual banquet held in Paris on the 19 of
Stig-Göran Larsson and I attended the banquet and we were presented
certificates of merit for our world records by Burdette Martin. He pointed
out that the results showed that car-racing and the development of standard
production vehicles have a lot in common, thereby stimulating the car
industries throughout the world.
FIA Presentation in Paris
All drivers were awarded a diploma.
on picture to enlarge.)
FIA´s June bulletin 1987included a final official results for the Long
Run …19 International records and 2 world records.
These results were also recognized as national records in Sweden and USA.
FIA´s June bulletin 1987 included a final official results table for the
Long Run …19 International records and 2 world records.
These results were also recognized as national records in Sweden and USA.
As soon as a record had been broken this was noted on the result board by a
very talented painter registering all the data –it was facinating to see
this skillful man at work.
The hand-written notice board at
Talladega including all results.
Donation of one of the Saab 9000 test vehicles.
In connection with the Talladega race-track there is a reception hall and
museum –officially named as the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame and
The museum has over 200,000 visitors per year and is widely known for its
collection of racing cars.
When the Long Run was completed Saab donated the pre test car to the museum.
Saab USA organized this along with compiling relevant information for the
museum´s visitors to read
Ref Photos a include Don Neman photo
The entrance building to
the Talladega museum.
Donated pre-test car to the museum.
Bob Sinclair handing over the car keys to
The official donation of the vehicle was done on the 3rd may 1987 in
connection with the large stock –car competition -Winston 500 race. In front
of 150000 spectators I drove the vehicle around the Talladega race track. Bob Sinclair, Steven Rossi and myself later handed over the ignition keys
to the museums chief Don Neman. A speaker at the track informed spectators
of what exactly Saab had achieved with the car which was good advertising
for the company in front of so many spectators.
The Talladega version of the Saab 9000.
In order to recognize the world records achieved by the Saab 9000 a special
Talladega version was developed and launched at the Stockholm car show in
February 1988 specifically for the Swedish market. In order for Saab to use
the name Talladega , a registered trade-mark , it was necessary to gain the
approval of the Royal Patent and Registration Office in Sweden.
Approval was granted on the 11 th December 1997.
Talladega version av Saab 9000.
Ref Photos A Talladega name approved for Saab usage. (
kolla om bild seqvens är ok )
Talladega name approved for Saab usage.
The diploma awarded to Saab by Governor
on picture to enlarge.)
on picture to enlarge.)
During our stay at Talladega we came in contact with many car
enthusiasts at the hotel and at local filling stations etc. What Saab was
doing at Talladega was generally well known and their admirations for our
achievements was very noticeable. Nobody had previously driven such long
distances at such high speeds.
The news of Saabs world records quickly reached the staff at the town hall
in Talladega who informed that the results of Saab in the Long Run had
helped getting Talladega more recognized even outside the borders of
As a token of their appreciation I was awarded a diploma signed by George C
Wallace the Governor of Alabama.
It may be of interest to learn that that George C Wallace was the democratic
candidate for the presidency of the USA in 1976 performing his work in a
Some interesting data
- The vehicles covered approximately 24000
laps during 21 days of driving.
- Every car consumed 27000 liters of fuel.
- Every car used 120 tires
- Regular services performed at 20 000 km (
new engine oil ,filter, spark-plugs) took at the start of
the test 4 minutes to complete
,at the end of the test 2 minutes 18 seconds.
- Each day the cars were driven a distance
equal to driving from Stockholm to Rome and back.
- 100,000 km equals approximately 2, 5
timesaround the world at the equator.
- The turbo-charger rotated 30 billion
- The engine rotated 165 million
- Each piston had moved a distance of 29000
Press and Information
Torsten Åman was in charge of all external information and he frequently
sent out bulletins of how the tests were progressing including also a list
of records which had been broken. Our ambition from the start of the tests
was that we should be very informative about the testing – indicating that
we were confident of the vehicles quality and durability characteristics.
Internal information was returned to Saab in Trollhättan on a daily
basis.Results were quickly noted on a large notice board placed outside the
production line entrance in Trollhättan. Data showing covered distances,
vehicle speeds and the number of records that had been broken were clearly
noted for all to see.
The interest at Saab of how things were progressing at Talladega was huge,
production staff were known to come in a little earlier prior to their
afternoon shift beginning just to gain fresh news and the daily report of
progress from Talladega.
It was generally felt that the Talladega record attempt increased
relationships within the company,everyone felt involved – it was after all a
vehicle developed and manufactured by Saab in Trollhättan.
The Press and driving of the test vehicles
When the Long Run was completed and vehicles had covered 100000km a number
of motoring journalists were invited to visit Talladega and test drive the
vehicles for themselves.
To personally have an understanding of just what it was like to drive
vehicles at Talladega was appreciated by all and positively reported. A
representative from the PR agency responsible for marketing Saab in the USA
calculated that the publicity gained from the Long run was worth at least $5
million in equivalent advertising costs.
On the 28 October 2006 the 20 th jubilee of the Long Run was celebrated at
the Saab museum in Trollhättan. Approximately 30 Talladega drivers attendedy
exchanging individual memories and driving experiences from Talladega.
All were in high spirits and together with a fine dinner a pleasant evening
was had by all.
Firstly I should like to thank Saabs management for having belief in the
whole idea behind the Long Run and for actually allowing us to perform the
It is on account of the full support and engagement from all involved in the
test that the project was a success from the start to finish.
Furthermore I wish to thank all my colleagues within the Saab
organization.Their numerous skills and professional involvement in the
development and manufacture of the Saab 9000 shall never be forgotten.
Some of the drivers and mechanics after reaching the finishing line.
Besides all the record braking achievements valuable engineering data was
obtained from completing the test at Talladega. The water cooled
turbo-charger´s performance and durability throughout the test impressed
probably most of all.
After the completion of the test each engine was disassembled and all
components fully examined for wear.
The examination proved that very little wear to had taken place and that
engine components were still in an in extremely good condition. This was
noted in the SAE paper written upon the completion of the test.
Our calculations and predictions of the thermal loadings expected to affect
engine components etc proved also to be correct.
We had calculated that the engines exhaust valves would become damaged after
the vehicles had covered 60-70000 km and of being exerted to a continual
exhaust temperature of approximately 950 °C. In practice though during
normal driving this never occurs.
Thanks to the successful driving at Talladega, Saab established that turbo
charged engines are very reliable which can be recognized by the increasing
use of Turbo chargers on engines being produced today.
From successfully completing the Long Run at Talladega, Saab has left its
mark in automobile history books, forever.
Thanks to the following people who assisted in the production of this
- Britt back for who has written this document on her computer.
- Olle Johansson who has edited the photography.
- Torsten Åman for his contribution of facts and figures.
- Ray Beaufoy who has been involved in the translation from Swedish to