Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reno Recap 2010

Gone with the Wind…

Have you ever looked forward to something, a once in a lifetime vacation perhaps – and when you can just about see the brass ring, you blink and it’s gone. Anticipation followed merely by disappointment is hard to reconcile.

That is how I felt after the Reno Air Races of 2010 came to a close. Mother Nature took the wind out of our sails and threw it back at us, with a vengeance. All of the preparation and handwringing ended, not with a crescendo – but with a whimper and a sigh.

The flags tell the story – a horrendous windstorm changes history
Credit: Joanne Murray

The Records

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of good. Four classes set new qualifying records. The Biplane’s Tom Aberle set another record with his amazing racer, Phantom. This time he was just over 260 mph. He managed yet another victory. And his crew told me that he still has more. How much more? I don’t know – but I can’t wait to find out.

The T6 Class also had a qualifying record. Nick Macy in Six-Cat went nearly 245 mph. As we look at those two records, did you ever think a Biplane would be 15 mph faster than the fastest T6? I bet Tom Aberle did. He is like a modern day mad scientist with his racer.

Sport Class set a new record also with Jeff LaVelle going over 362 mph. Best thing to happen to the Sport Class in a long time. More on this below.

The other class to set a qualifying record was the Jet Class. Now, I know we’ve discussed this before, but wasn’t there a speed limit on the Jet course? At first, I remember it being around 500 mph, then 515, then 525 – then 535 … well Curt Brown set another record – this time at nearly 545 mph. Holy cow that was fast. It looked fast sitting in the stands, it looked fast in the Valley of Speed – and I have a funny feeling there is more zoom left in that aircraft also.


The Formula Class has been experiencing some adjustments over the last couple years. However, this year I saw several shining moments. A few former and current racers shared with me their plans for ultra-cool-new-designs which will liven up the Class. I’ll share more on these in the coming months.

Endeavor took the Gold this year. The third time overall and the second time with the current owner. It appears Steve Senegal has finally dialed-in himself and his racer to the right station. Philip Goforth was poised to make the Gold an exciting race, but Mother Nature intervened and he headed off the runway during the wretched windswept start on Sunday. Vito Wypraechtiger took Phil’s place to finish second and Jethro Bodine in Miss Demeanor (also owned by Senegal) took third. I’m still scratching my head with that one – because Miss De was in the Bronze a short time ago.


Maybe I’m biased, but some of the best racing this year was definitely in the Biplane Class. For us, a full field is 24 competitors. We only had 19 this year – which resulted in three racers competing for the Bronze and six volunteers in a “demo race”. The only rules were – don’t hit each other and stay behind the first three. Not an easy feat - believe me.

Some of the closest racing in years – four Biplanes crossing the Finish
Credit = Tim O’Brien

Sport and Super Sport Class

For a class that is usually bullet-proof, they had twice their share of troubles this year. First Kevin Eldredge had an overspeed and the prop basically exploded while on the course. The oil filter housing seemed to have broken from the engine – the oil pressure dropped, the governor had no oil, the prop went into overspeed and departed the aircraft and the engine seized. That was the good news – now, without a prop, he had to figure out how to land it. Think of the CG issues you would have if you lost 20-50 pounds of prop!?

Kevin’s Prop – after the overspeed
Credit: Jason Fisher

In an incredible act of pilotage, Kevin brought her down safely on 14 and the CFR team was there in seconds – to put out the resultant fire. The crowds were treated with a view of the carnage in the Pits all week. An engine with a giant gaping hole, a prop hub with three stubs where blades used to be and a cowl with a section missing.

The GP-5, which was met with such fan fair, made metal half way through the week and was a scratch. Poky was out with metal and the Super Sport started to look rather sparse. Then there was the Thunder Mustangs. John Parker put a nice size hole in the case of his first engine earlier in the week and put on his old engine which he set records with earlier this year. And dear George Giboney’s Rapid Travel won the Super Sport Heat on Saturday fell victim to a Mayday and a wind deterred deadstick to runway 26 on Sunday. The saddest part of the week was watching George try to make the runway, fall short and tumble through the sage brush – parts flying everywhere.

The best part of the week was watching George get out of his once beautiful racer and wave to the crowd. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see someone. I never found out what happened to the engine. I guess it doesn’t matter now. George, if you read this – I’m so happy you’re okay!

The Regular Sport Class was equally jinxed. Vickie Benzing flying Vicki Cruse’s Glasair had another overspeed after winning the Silver the day before. Several of the Sport Classes had to move up to the Super to make it work.

Oh, and Mike Dacey won the Super Sport in the Questair Venture. Proving he was right, that aircraft was worth sticking with and the naysayers were wrong.
Congrats, Mike!

Jeff LaVelle is my new hero getting his Glasair III to go over 362 in qualifying. That was faster than any of the Super Sport Qualifiers.

The beautiful Rapid Travel before her final Mayday
Credit Tim O’Brien


This I know for sure, Jimmy Leeward is a showman. He brought his renewed racer in on Sunday and probably did 47 low passes to the delight of anyone on the field. Anyone on the field who wasn’t in a pilot brief like I was. Sigh. But alas – the crowd loved it.

For whatever reason, Jimmy failed to qualify during any of the sessions available to him, which meant he had to start at the back of the Medallion and race his way up to the Gold by winning each heat; which he did – easily.

Voodoo qualified well, but during Heat 3A on Saturday – Will called a Mayday when the engine “just shut off”. The Voodoo Crew spent the next 23.5 hours thrashing to get ready for the Gold.

Strega qualified at the top and seemed to be coasting along having a great week. Tiger seemed happy, content, and relaxed.

Rare Bear hid in the Cave all week, but when she appeared, Mr. Penney knew what to do. John finished 2nd in the Gold Heat 3A and didn’t seem to sweat a thing. Brent Hisey in Miss America was back in the Gold, John Maloney brought Steadfast in with a fourth place finish on Saturday and Stewart Dawson and Rod Lewis flew the two beautiful Tigercats on both sides of Bill Eberhardt in Merlin’s Magic.

So, Saturday’s Gold Heat 3A ended just like that – Strega, Rare Bear, Miss America, Steadfast, Here Kitty Kitty, Merlin’s Magic and El Jefe -- With Will Whiteside in Voodoo as a DNF. Galloping Ghost would have joined them in the Gold on Sunday and Robbie Patterson would be there too in Lady Jo.

Now, why is she telling us so much about what happened on Saturday? Well, because Sunday never happened. The old saying about it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than to be in the air wishing you were on the ground – well that was Sunday.

I raced on Sunday and it was AWFUL. The F1s and the Bipes started on 32 and we worked with a quartering tailwind which sent two F1s off the runway and nearly tossed at least two Bipes. Looking back, I wish we hadn’t flown that morning. It was ghastly out there and wasn’t fun.

The T6 Gold and the Unlimited made the right decision. I know for the fans, it was a major disappointment. But it was the right decision. We now know that we have 8 racers ready to rock and roll and this makes 2011 look great already!

More next month … until then..

Fly Low, Fly Fast and Turn Left.

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Jimmy Leeward, the Showman
Credit: Bruce Croft

Rod Lewis changed Big Mr. Bossman to El Jefe – love the noseart
Credit: Bruce Croft

Ruby wore her new shoes in honor of Al Goss and Warlock
Credit = Anthony Taylor