Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Race for the Races

Each year around this time, all of the race teams are fervently working to get everything ready for September. This year is no different, and if possible, this year seems even more active. As always, things change quickly – so what we are going to discuss today is what we have so far. Things may change – you never know!

There are new planes and old friends joining us this year. The Unlimited Class will have a full field for the first time since 2007. New entries include Odegaards’ newest Corsair, #74 with the massive R-4360 powerplant. This aircraft was owned and raced by Cook Cleland back in the Cleveland Air Race days. This will be the second F2G the Odegaards have restored and raced. Many of you will remember the Super Corsair, #57 from a few years ago. This one is beautiful and should not disappoint any of the Corsair fans out there.

Another exciting return after a short hiatus is September Fury – yes #232 is scheduled to be at Reno again this year. This fan favorite is currently owned by Rod Lewis and is in Chino getting some final race preparations. It will be good to see our old friend rounding the pylons again. So far, no pilot has officially been named, but we have ideas about who it will be. (Hint... He's a HOOT!)


Yes, that's 232 getting some race prep by the magicians in Chino

Precious Metal will be back this year with Thom Richard as the pilot. The aircraft was purchased shortly before PRS in June and Thom arrived with the entire crowd cheering for him. PM will have some new paint and a few minor tweaks and should be faster than ever. Congrats to Team Thom!

One more returning racer is Furias – Bill Roger’s old Sea Fury is now owned by Chuck Greenhill and is in the capable hands of Sanders’ Aeronautics, getting ready for the much anticipated unveiling in September. Matt Jackson is scheduled to be the pilot. We look forward to seeing what this beauty will do after the rebuild.

With the usual suspects scheduled to be there, Strega having made some minor off season changes and Voodoo in the capable hands of Will Whiteside, these two Mustangs will likely be battling for the front with Rare Bear piloted this year by Stewart Dawson. The Bear looks better than ever.

Beyond 232 and Rare Bear, Rod Lewis will also be bringing El Jefe with a new paint job. My best guess is he will likely pilot El Jefe himself – he attended PRS with Here Kitty Kitty for practice.


Rod Lewis getting some practice in one of his beautiful Tigercats during PRS

More Sea Fury action from Dreadnought and Argonaut will have Dennis Sanders primary on Dread and Mark Watt primary on Argo. But there are plenty of alternate pilots in that mix. Korey Wells will see some time in Argo and Brian Sanders will probably get a few laps in on Dread. They are building both race planes and race pilots in Ione these days. And don’t forget - Sawbones will be back with Dan Vance in the pilot’s seat. Dan had raced 911 September Pops for years when it was owned by Mike Brown. Happy to see Dan back behind a round engine!


Argonaut being flown by rookie Korey Wells and Precious Metal flown by Unlimited Rookie Thom Richard at PRS in June.

Brand new to the lineup is John O’Connor’s “Blue Angel” Bearcat. John owned American Beauty which was raced by Fred Cabanas back in 2008. This time Nelson Ezell will be in the cockpit. It will be nice to have him back after a short vacation.

Czech Mate was listed as possible - but is closer to doubtful right now. They are working with many brilliant minds to make sure the Little Yak will be able to structurally handle the incredible speeds she has been seeing over the last few years.

And now for you Ghost fans… yes, the Galloping Ghost is on the list – with Jimmy Leeward as the pilot. I love to see the fan reaction to this news. So many people are pulling for this one – hopefully we will see her full potential this year.

Doug Matthews will bring both his warbirds, The Rebel – his pristine P-51 and his Corsair – which will likely be flown by rookie John Currenti.

Another busy racer will be John Maloney. He is currently listed as the pilot for the FW-190, Boise Bee and Steadfast. Plus, if you know John – he’ll be lending a hand to assist other crews all week. He is certainly not someone to sit idly by.

Speaking of Boise Bee, this is the new P-51B from the Paul family. The word from John Curtiss is they will be bringing both P-40s (Sneak Attack and Parrothead) and the Bee. Jim Thomas, John Curtiss and John Maloney will take turns flying these entries.

Having avoided several tornadoes by just a few miles, Brent Hisey will be back with his beauty, Miss America. The Eberhardt family will be there with Merlin’s Magic. Sparky and the Jelly Belly will be in the lineup as well as Speedball Alice and Lady Jo.


The Usual Suspects will be there, plus a few exciting new entries

Not sure how many aircraft Chuck Greenhill will bring above and beyond Furias. Both Geraldine and Lou IV are entered. Dave Morss will have both Polar Bear and the T28 called “The Bear”. Air Biscuit will be there also with Tom Camp.

I think I covered everyone on my list. But as I said, things change rapidly as we approach the races.

Sport Class

Just a teaser for you Sport Class fans out there… They have a full field, which will be three heats of 9 airplanes each. The other good news is they will have 5 new engines racing this year. This includes 2 V-8s, a Mazda Rotary, an M-14P Radial and a French Diesel from Team Big Frog. Also, the “Metal Mafia” is back – including several Harmon and F1 Rockets. And of course, Cantina Owner Dick Ogg will be there in Plastic Piglet.


One of the new Sport Class Rookies flying the Radial Rocket, powered by the M-14P

It’s shaping up to be a great year and next month we will review the other classes and pick some favorites to win. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets and secured your hotel and rental car, now is the time. Can’t wait to see you all there!

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

Special thanks to Anthony Taylor of Warbird Fotos for use of his photographs from PRS!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Air Racers 3D - Force of Flight

The phone rang. A voice on the other end of the phone asked me if I would be interested in taking part in the Air Racers 3D IMAX movie being filmed about the Reno Air Races. Would I? Really? Of course I would! More phone calls, more emails, small moments of hysteria, and I was on my way to Reno to take part in the project.

From the press release: "Through the eyes of first-time competitor and rookie pilot Steve Hinton Jr., son of champion air racer and acrobatic pilot Steve Hinton, the film will chronicle the preparation for and competition in the world's fastest motor sport: the legendary Reno National Championship Air Races. The film will be in Imax 3D and 2D theatres in the US beginning in the fall."

Sounds great, right? While I had been hearing about this film for years now, getting the chance to be part of it - even a small part - was amazing. I arrived on Friday afternoon while they were still shooting some of the Unlimited action. Strega and Stevo were on hand as well as Brant Seghetti in Sparky, Matt Jackson in Wee Willy, Stu Dawson in Here Kitty, Kitty. A helicopter was set up with the 3D camera with Kevin LaRosa, long time aerial filming giant at the helm. The scene looked quite similar to the races during the first few days of set up. It was eerily familiar.

Because of the short notice, not all of my crew members could be there. However, Matt Williams and Don Dull were on hand with Manager, Jason Fisher being left behind. Matt immediately took to polishing Ruby to make her sparkle like the gem she is. Quick meetings with the production crew, locating my car, hotel, etc., Thanks everyone - we'll see you tomorrow.

The next morning, we were told the pilot brief would be at 8am. During the races, the Biplanes brief at 7am and the door closes on the briefing room at 6:59 and if you're not inside by then, you do not race that day. So, this was almost a luxury! We arrive around 7am and start getting the airplanes ready. We head over to the briefing room at 7:45 and nothing happens until around 9:15. We are all laughing about the difference between filming and RACING.

As mentioned, majority of the film would be about Stevo and Strega. But the producers wanted to show some background to the races, the airshow acts, the other classes which compete and the action outside of the Unlimiteds. I was chosen to represent the Biplane Class, while Phil Goforth and Jay Jones were there with the Formula 1 Class. Just like during race week, we would fly earlier in the day and would work together.

My shoot

First thing we do is attach one of the 3D cameras onto my right I-strut. My crew is on hand to make sure everything is done to their satisfaction. They are in charge of keeping me and Ruby safe - so no camera movement, or too much weight, etc. Now we're ready for show time.

The helicopter takes to the air and provides constant feedback and direction. Taxi to the run up area, taxi into position, helicopter follows my takeoff down the full length of runway 8. Then, we went to altitude, and I followed Kevin's direction for "beauty shots". I flew towards the camera and away from the camera, making sure we had the perfect background. These shots are going to be amazing - the mountains still had snow on them and the sun was hitting the hills creating incredible color. What a morning to fly!

When my airwork was complete, the helicopter followed me down to my landing - not my best, but not my worst either. We ended with some shots of me taxiing into position and having my joyous crew greet me for the debrief. Actually, we do precisely that after every race. Cameras and people were everywhere, so my signature twirl was a little more risky - but authentic.

The rest of the day was spent watching the other classes. Lee Behel and Kevin Eldredge flew for the Sport Class. Denis Buehn and John Zayak were on hand to represent the T6s while Heather Penney and John Kokshoorn flew for the Jet Class.

The movie should hit theatres later this year. I'll keep you posted and hope you circle your calendars.

Reno prep begins in earnest now and next month's column will be about the new racers who attended PRS. Until then, Fly low, fly fast and turn left.

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing

IMAX Filming in preparation for the Air Racers - 3D movie
Credit: 3D Entertainment