Sunday, September 27, 2009

Reno Recap – 2009

What a week. I can say I called the winner in each class, but one. And that class for me was a three way tie. The weather was perfect all week and the crowds, while lighter than usual, were informed and entertained. And they were given a healthy dose of GREAT racing.

Besides the amazing racing, RARA put on a heck of a show. We enjoyed the Blue Angels, Patty Wagstaff, David Martin and the Red Eagles this year. Also, a U2 flyby and a C17 demo were on the agenda. Fat Albert entertained the crowds with his 2nd to last JATO Display. JATO stands for Jet Assisted Take-off and is no longer warranted because of new technology. However, the fans love it and we are sorry to see it go.

The West Coast Airshow Fans rarely get to see Patty Wagstaff, since she is based on the East Coast. Her show has only gotten better over the years. David Martin always provides the Reno crowd with high energy aerobatics. The Red Eagles were also new to Reno and put on a spectacular two-ship display. These were all excellent choices for entertainment between the races.

Fat Albert JATO Take-off


Now, back to the racing.

International Formula 1

The F1 was highly competitive all week. The Gold Final on Sunday was hard fought. Thom Richard in Invictus and Gary Davis in Scarlet Screamer fought hard with last year’s winner, Endeavor until the third lap when Endeavor pulled out leaving Thom and Gary on their own. Steve Temple in Madness, Smokey Young in Sly Dog and Doug “Jethro” Bodine in Yellow Peril were neck and neck to see who finished third – fifth. Jay Jones and Rookie Lachie Onslow also battled to the end for sixth and seventh.

Our winner was Thom Richard in Invictus. He flew a fantastic series of races for the Gold and also ended up winning the final Silver Race in his other racer Miss USA. The winner of the first two Silver Heats was none other than Ed Dutreaux. After a two year hiatus, we are happy to see Ed in Slingshot again.

A new fan favorite was Phil Goforth. A rookie this year, he qualified 18th – but moved up the Silver and finished 7th. He also tugged his airplane down to the Ultimate Fan Section 3 to have several of their members sign his plane. He was also a big hit with the kids who come through the F1 and Biplane hangar each year. Within minutes, he had 15 kids with rags in their hands cleaning his aircraft. He had us in stitches the entire time and we are happy to see him joining the ranks.

Thom Richards flying Invictus, the F1 Gold Champ for 2009



Biplane Gold was all about the Phantom again this year. After two Maydays earlier in the week, Tom Aberle and his fantastic team brought home the Gold once again. Norm Way and Dennis Vest made racing for second quite interesting in their highly modified Pitts.

The Biplane class was short on racers this year. A few years ago, we had 31 competitors for a field of 24 and now we are under 20. If you know someone who may be interested in racing their Biplane, get in touch with me or check out the PRPA Biplane page on Facebook.

We staged a demo race for the Bronze because of lack of entries. It was about the most fun we could have had. We reversed the start (slower in front, faster in back) which led to some great passing. At one point, we were four across going around Pylon 6. I hope the fans enjoyed the racing as much as we did.

I ended up racing in both the Silver and Bronze and had the best time ever. My crew really came to life and managed the airplane for me while I managed the pilot. Thanks to Michael “WBK” Town, Matt Williams and my “babysitter” Jason Fisher. You guys are invaluable to me.

Credit: Ken Linde
Biplane Champion, Tom Aberle in Phantom


Credit: Victor Archer
Marilyn Dash in Ruby crossing the finish line in the Silver Biplane Race


Sport and Super Sport Class

David Sterling and Tom McReynolds really gave last year’s winner Lee Behel a run for his money. Jeff Levelle also made it interesting, but cut a pylon and put himself back into fourth place. Gary Mead was unable to finish the race on Sunday, but worked incredibly hard to get his racer back in the air after a runaway prop earlier in the week. But, the Gold Jacket ended up on David Sterling this year.

In Super Sport, it was all NXTs in the front. John Sharp qualified at a blistering 412 mph (which was faster than Rare Bear’s qualifying time this year – WOW!). It was just a mild increase over last year’s 409. Their speed in the final race was over 407 mph. Kevin Eldredge in the other NXT, Relentless was 20 mph slower. Mike Dacey put the pressure on in the last few laps, but was unable to change the outcome. George Giboney and John Parker in the Thunder Mustangs followed in 4th and 5th.
Darryl Greenamyer and Lynn Farnsworth both had trouble with their Lancair Legacy and did not start the race. We hope they iron out the problems and come back strong in 2010.

The Super Sport and Sport Classes are gaining fans each year and hopefully will continue to keep us on the edge of our seats in the years to come.

Two of the most beautiful Super Sport racers, Relentless and Nemesis


T6 Class

The T6 battle was going to be between Nick Macy, Dennis Beuhn and Al Goss, the last three winners. Qualifying had Nick in the lead, followed closely by Dennis and Al. But, the final race changed the order to Nick, Al and then Dennis. While Nick and Al fought it out to the end, it looked like Dennis had lost some speed in the last race. John Lohmar, John Zayac and Gene McNeeley all battled hard for the remaining spots, finishing in that order and all within a single mph. Now, that is close racing.

The T6 Class never disappoints the fans that like a tight race. The Silver race was also decided by a mere one mph. Ken Gottschall beat Gordo Sanders at the wire by less than 2 tenths of a second. As my old racing coach used to say, “you could cover the entire field with a blanket at the finish”. And yes, that was about the story with the T6s all week.

Scott Dockter recently purchased Two of Hearts from John Zayak (who bought her from Mary and Steve Dilda) and renamed her Margarita. He ended 6th in the Silver. He raced his other T6, Deuce of Hearts to a 7th position in the Bronze. Vic and Keith McMann were less than a 100th of a second away and with the younger McMann taking 2nd in the Bronze with Gunslinger. Keith ended up third in Red Knight.

And before I forget, the Warlock Party was spectacular as always. The band played, the Miller Beer flowed and the Margarita Machines were humming along. The Sawbones team brought over their two-stroke, two blender, Lodestar throttle quadrant equipped machine to keep the tequila flowing. A big thanks go out to Al Goss and Anita Day for hosting this gala every year. In fact, next year will be Al’s 30th year competing at Reno. It’s an honor to know such terrific people.

Credit: Victor Archer
Nick Macy in Six Cat took the T6 Gold again this year


Happy Hour and Eros...
Some of the closest racing is always in the T6 Class.


In past years, the Jet Class was limited to 500 mph, then 525 and now the speeds have been bumped up again to 550 mph, per Cliff Magee, President of the Jet Class. Good thing too, because Curt Brown demolished the previous class record with a qualifying time of just over 538 mph. Joe Gano in Pip Squeak was not far behind at 524 and Red Bull and Reno Racer, Mike Mangold came in at 514 mph.

Their final races were much closer with Curt edging out Mangold by just under three mph. Joe Gano, Phil Fogg and Rick Vandam rounded out the top five. The Vampire, which we affectionately named “Sea Biscuit” finished 7th but was definitely a fan favorite. And all of our eyes and ears appreciate the fact that we were unable to see or hear the Fouga on the race course this year. If you have ever stood near a Fouga when the engines started screaming, you’ll understand what I mean.


This year had the best Unlimited Racing ever! After much speculation in the off season, the fans were treated to some amazing moments. Let’s review.

Qualifying gave us Steven Hinton in Strega on top with an amazing 486 mph and Sherman Smoot in Czech Mate in second place with his best qualifying number ever – just over 466. Dan Martin in the previously “stock” Ridge Runner in third, Brian Sanders in Dreadnaught in fourth and Will Whiteside in Voodoo in fifth place.

At the other end of the list we have Air Biscuit, the classic Wildcat flown by Tom Camp just over the minimum 300 mph and Bruce Wallace in the T-28 at just under the 300 mph minimum at 298 and change. This put Biscuit in the show and Bruce on the sidelines.

The Texas Contingent of Nelson Ezell, Stewart Dawson and Howard Pardue qualified 6, 8 and 9 with amazing speeds for these supposedly stock aircraft. However, Dawson’s Spirit of Texas had a mechanical and was withdrawn from competition.

Hijinks abound in the off hours – Chickens like Henrietta seemed to fly from one race plane to another in the dark of night.


Sparky, the Jelly Belly P51 was also withdrawn with a mechanical which left a lot of frowns around the Seghetti pit. They made herculean efforts to get her back in the air, but were unsuccessful. They were still there, handing out little packets of the best jelly beans in the world. Thanks to Ward Steiner and Steve, Brant and Allison Seghetti for keeping us on sugar highs.

The two P40s both made the field with John Maloney out qualifying JC Paul. Doug Matthews, a sophomore racer this year, brought two aircraft. He brought his pristine Corsair and Rhinechild’s Bad Attitude Sea Fury. The question always asked – what do you do if you end up in the same heat… you ask your good friend Jimmy Leeward to step in, that’s what you do.

But, I’m skipping ahead.

Jimmy Leeward had intended to bring his highly modified Galloping Ghost. But, alas, all good intentions didn’t work for the Leeward team this year. They were unable to get her to Reno in time, despite a valiant effort. But, you can be sure; she’ll be in attendance next year. And because Jimmy was so dedicated to the Ghost this year, Cloud Dancer, another fan favorite, was also missing from the ramp. The fans cannot wait to see Jimmy in both of his racers next year.

Since Jimmy didn’t have his own racer in the field, when Matthews ended up with two in the Bronze on Saturday, Jimmy stepped in and the two nearly passed the finish line together. Jimmy was also there on Sunday to step in to pilot the Corsair to third in the Bronze.

Doug in Bad Attitude finished first in the Bronze, but opted to move up to the Silver Race and therefore Fred Cabanas in American Beauty was the Bronze Champ. American Beauty is a gorgeous P-51. Her owner, John O’Connor is a big supporter of the Chris and Dana Reeve Foundation. This foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. O’Connor donates his winnings each year to this foundation. This is a truly magnanimous gesture.

The Unlimited Silver Final on Sunday was a runaway by Brent Hisey in Miss America. Ray Dieckman arrived second in Sawbones. And Dennis Sanders flew Argonaut to third place. Doug Matthews came in fourth – after bumping up from Silver – I can only imagine he found an extra boost somewhere and was able to add 13 mph. And then, we have the Mustangs, Bill Eberhardt in Merlin’s Magic, Robbie Patterson in Lady Jo, Dave Morss in the P-51A, Polar Bear and Rob Gordon in Speedball Alice were all very competitive in the Silver Finals.

Credit : Gordon Edwards
Two of the beautiful Mustangs, Lady Jo and Speedball Alice – hopping rides at the end of the day


After John Maloney fell ill, JC Paul took over flying both P40s, the Parrothead and Sneak Attack. The Parrothead in the Silver and Sneak in the Bronze. He finished behind Fred Cabanas in the Bronze and was DQ for being low flying in the Silver. I’m sure he learned his lesson and when he returns next year, he will likely be a model race pilot. Right, JC?

Speaking of DQs and low flying… we had more low flying calls this year than I remember in years past. I wonder if more people are flying low, or are we just seeing a crackdown on this activity.

John Maloney early in the week with Sneak Attack


Credit: Steve Edmonson
Rookie, JC Paul in Parrothead did some excellent flying

Now, for the Gold … In the first Gold Heat on Friday, it was all “Shafter”. Steven Hinton and Sherman Smoot battled it out, only to have Smoot cut a pylon and be dropped to fifth place.

On Saturday, the racing was amazing. Will Whiteside in Voodoo ended up with a win at nearly 486 mph, because it was Stevo’s turn to cut a pylon. Sherman also cut one and ended up in 7th place. Dan Martin and John Penney rounded out the top four.

But Sunday’s Race is the one that counts and it was close. Steven Hinton and Will Whiteside pushed each other hard, with Will pulling out in lap 5 with a Mayday. He landed safely, while the racing continued.

After Will pulled out, it was all Stevo. He flew a great race, a great line and really earned the victory. He is now the youngest winning unlimited racer in history at 22 years of age. He took that distinction away from his father who was 26 when he had his first victory. Stevo also set a new course record at 493 mph.

Credit: Anthony Taylor
Strega is again the Gold Unlimited Champion


Credit: Rob “Phred” Miller
Steven Hinton, the 22 year old champion

The rest of the pack included John Penney in Rare Bear 2nd, Sherman Smoot in the mighty Giant Killer, Czech Mate third and Dan Martin in the “stock” Ridge Runner in fourth.

I can’t wait to see what this young Hinton will do with his career as a pilot. It was about six years ago when I asked a 16 year old boy if he wanted to crew for me and Ruby in the biplane class. He respectfully declined, saying he was going to stay with Strega and Tiger. I think he made the right decision.

A special congratulations goes out to the Voodoo team. They ended up just a bit short, but Frank Young’s engine worked great and their newest crew member, Bill Kerchenfaut, really added something to the team. Bob Button and Will Whiteside should be very happy with the way things worked. Next year, we will likely see Strega and Voodoo in the front again.

Congrats to all the winners and I cannot wait to see you all on the ramp next year.
Until then, fly low, fly fast and don’t forget to turn left.

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing