Friday, November 1, 2013

The 50th National Championship Air Races -- Wrap-up -- Part 2

Last month, we reviewed the Unlimited/UWRC races. And I promised this month to cover the other five classes of competitors. Let’s get started.


First thing in the morning, when the skies are dark and the dew is still on the planes, the IF1 (and Biplane) air racers are already at the field, tugging their planes out to runway 08 and trying not to shiver from the cold. The crowds are light at this time, which is a pity because some of the best racing happens before 10AM.

This year was no different. The IF1 class participants were few in number, but deep in talent and heart.

After qualifying nearly 10 miles per hour faster than anyone else, Steve Senegal, the reigning IF1 Champion had a difficult start and just couldn’t get around Vito Wypraechtiger in long time racer, Scarlet Screamer. Vito is one of two competitors in the IF1 class from Europe; Vito from Switzerland and Bill Parodi from Spain.

The final race on Sunday was amazing. Everyone was on their feet cheering for their favorite and cheering for a great race, if they had no favorite. It was eight laps of intense racing.

Vito Wypraechtiger in Scarlet Screamer
Thanks to Phredtography


The other early morning entertainment is the Biplane Class. This year brought many Rookies and a few “Boomerangs” to the races. A Boomerang is a racer who returns after time away – get it?

Byron Roberts raced back in the early 90s with me when I started. He wanted to come back for the 50th and Aaron Burhoe came back after just a few years away. Great to have you both back!

Rookies included Jeffrey Rose, Brett Schuck, John D’Alessandro and Matt Burrows. Jeff and Brett brought very stock Pitts Specials while Matt and John brought giant (for the Biplane Class anyway) two-seaters – which were recently voted in by our new rules.  

Big Blue Biplane

This year was the first time since I’ve been racing where we utilized an 8 or 4 second handicap. The Biplanes start on the runway, the first row goes, then 4 seconds later, the next row and another 4 seconds before the third row finally moves. While 4 or 8 seconds doesn’t seem like much, we wanted to see if this changed the complexion of the racing. The group voted to have the handicap added to this year’s races.

To no one’s surprise, Tom Aberle won again, hands down – in his custom built racer, Phantom. When asked what Tom was up to next – he said he is building a new racer… and then finished the statement by saying… and this one won’t have two wings. Hmmm… I wonder what he has up his sleeve!?

The race is then for second place, which was won by Karl Grove although Jake Stewart in his new (to him) racer qualified second. Did the handicap rule change the finish? I’d have to say yes.

Here’s to hoping the Jeff Lo finishes his final changes on Miss Gianna, Karl Grove finishes his Boomerang (no relation), Jeff Rose finishes his Mong Racer and the race is not just for second place.

With a great group of racers and a dedicated fan base, the Biplanes are an interesting Class.


While Nick Macy qualified .3 seconds faster than Dennis Buehn, this was not his year. During Saturday’s race, a catastrophic engine failure caused him to have one of the most spectacular maydays of T-6 racing when he Chandelled to Runway 14. His years flying Six Cat were evident in his masterful handling of this in-flight emergency.

Nick Macy rounding out his landing during mayday

Dennis Buehn was the final Gold winner on Sunday in Midnight Miss. John Lohmar came in second and Chris Rushing finished third.

And, Gordo Sanders won the Silver in Big Red.  Had to get that in there. 

Sport Class

The largest Class of racers – again this year – the Sport Class. With 28 competitors, they keep growing while so many classes are experiencing decreasing numbers.

Again this year, Jeff LaVelle qualified quickest. But he just didn’t get the overall number he was trying to hit. He wanted to get the record, which is currently held by John Sharp in Nemesis, 2008 – 409.297. But, 403.059 was all he needed to qualify nearly 12 mph faster than John Parker in Blue Thunder II.

And the race went the same way. Jeff started in front and stayed in front. And Parker came in a distant second place, partly because of an early cut pylon that added 12 seconds to his time.

We were seriously disappointed that the GP5 wasn’t there, but there was enough excitement and enough beautiful airplanes and great flying to keep their fan base and add many more.

Jeff LaVelle - still champion

Rookies flew well, we especially enjoyed watching Andrew Findley qualify and finish 5th among the old guard. He’s definitely got the racing bug and I bet we’ll see improvements during the off-season.

And Sport Class Rookie Brant Seghetti, who has been racing Sparky (the Jelly Belly P-51) for years, flying a beautiful line at about the same speed in Miss Picabo – a gorgeous Thunder Mustang.

A few more shout outs – one to Tom McReynolds for coming back. You and Poky were missed. And to Shane Margraves who brought a Zlin 50 and finished last, but was there and got the t-shirt – and the largest number of penalty seconds I’ve ever seen. Colleen, it is nice to see another lady racer. And to Dick Ogg, who decided that Nitrous was the way to go. You rock!


A new winner was crowned in the Jet Class. Pete Zaccagnino and his new (to him) L-29 Delfin, “Just Lucky” are the new Jet Gold winners. Pete was able to keep it under the Jet Speed Limit and still perform admirably with a qualifying time of just over 512.

The other big news was the GiB, or Gadget in Back of Jet #5. They are using a water injection system and decided to paint the water tank to look like R2D2. It was a hit! 

Gadget in Back - is R2D2
Marilyn Dash - photographer

All new officers were voted in at the end of race week and we’re looking forward to seeing what changes are coming down the road for the Jets. Stay tuned…

Final Words…

The 50th is in the books. But what does the future hold – we’ll find out soon enough. I had a great time and it's always nice to see our September Family again.