Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Red Bull Air Race 2014: Worth the Wait

After a three-year hiatus, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship came back in 2014 with dramatic action.

It all started when twelve of the world’s best pilots reunited in February for the season opener in Abu Dhabi. The new rules, which mandated standardization of engines and propellers, were created to level the playing field and to make the action tighter – and they did.

Fans were able to see the action at eight locations on three continents. Venues like England’s Ascot Racecourse and the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria completely sold out, and at the race in Gdynia, Poland – the officials had to close access to the beach viewing when they reached the mandated civic limit of 130,000. Now, that’s a crowd!

Other interesting venues included two in the USA – both racetracks owned by Bruton Smith; Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. While the Texas race was exciting and fun – though hot and humid, the Las Vegas race was sidelined by incredibly high winds which made the pylons unstable and the fans disappointed.

This year, the competition was closer than ever and made even small mistakes resulting in penalties much more costly over the season. It was exciting racing right through to the season finale at Red Bull’s home in Spielberg, Austria.

In the end, Britain's Nigel Lamb became only the sixth Champion in Red Bull Air Race World Championship history. At the wire, he beat local hero, Hannes Arch of Austria and Britain's Paul Bonhomme.
By finishing second, Lamb was able to amass enough points - after Hannes Arch ended up in fourth place due to penalties.

"It's just amazing," said Lamb, "I feel very lucky because I didn't think that my time was even good enough to get on the podium. It's an amazing feeling. It's a great day. It's an indescribable feeling."
Nigel Lamb flying through the Pylons at the finale in Austria

Nigel Lamb – Red Bull World Champion 2014

Nigel is well known in the Aerobatic Competition and Airshow Worlds. Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), he was inspired to become a pilot by his father – a Royal Air Force Fighter Pilot in World War II. Nigel joined the Rhodesian Air Force and became qualified in Jets and Helicopters. Leaving the Air Force in 1980, he settled in England flying for the Marlboro Aerobatic Team.

An eight time British Unlimited Aerobatic Champion, he was a member of the British Team in three World Aerobatic and two Europe Championships.

He has also flown in several movies including a favorite of mine, Dark Blue World. He flew the Spitfire in some pretty incredible scenes in that movie. He also fly a P-51 Mustang in Hart’s War and was the Chief Pilot in Flyboys.

He is one of the few people I know who flies in so many different genres of aviation – from warbirds to jets to helicopters to competition to airshows to movies to Red Bull. That is an interesting career.

We congratulate Nigel on his hard fought win – and wish him the best of luck again next year.

Final Preparation for his Championship Winning Flight 

World Championship (final): 
1. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 62 points, 
2. Hannes Arch (AUT) 53, 
3. Paul Bonhomme (GBR) 51, 
4. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 42, 
5. Pete McLeod (CAN) 38, 
6. Matt Hall (AUS) 33, 
7. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 21, 
8. Martin Sonka (CZE) 18, 
9. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 10, 
10. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 7, 
11. Peter Besenyei (HUN) 6, 
12. Michael Goulian (USA) 3;
2015 Race Calendar
1. Abu Dhabi (13/14 February)
2. Chiba, Japan (16/17 May)
3. Sochi, Russia* (30 /31 May)
4. Budapest, Hungary (4/5 July)
5. Ascot, Great Britain (15/16 August)
6. Spielberg, Austria (5/6 September)
7. Fort Worth, Texas, United States (26/27 September)
8. Las Vegas, Nevada, United States (17/18 October)
*To be confirmed

Photos used by Permission from Red Bull Air Races

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 NCAR Review – Part 2

Last month we reviewed the International Formula 1, Biplanes and T-6 classes from the 2014 National Championship Air Races held in Reno, NV.  This month, we will complete our review, highlighting the Sport Class, Jets and Unlimited Division.

Sport Class

This year, Jeff LaVelle broke two records.  In his Glasair III, Jeff broke his own record for Fastest Qualifying time and in Heat 1A he broke the fastest time in the race also.

Not sure what magic Jeff has in that aircraft, but it sounds awesome and looks great. And he is most likely not done tinkering yet. Always looking to increase his speed by a knot or two, he is one of the reasons to watch the Sport Class.

Jeff LaVelle does it again! 

Veteran Thunder Mustang Pilot, John Parker was nipping at his heels, but was denied in the end with a mechanical and a DNS for the Final.

Gary Mead qualified fifth, but through luck and attrition, ended up taking 2nd place. While Swiss Pilot, Peter Balmer qualified 8th in the only other Thunder Mustang racing this year – he finished 3rd. It was one of those years.

Sophomore, Andrew Findlay – sporting his new Sponsor Logo – Stihl, Inc – the chainsaw and power tool manufacturer, put up some great numbers and had a DNF during the Gold – but it is nice to see a major sponsor in the Sport Class! Go Andrew! Thanks, Stihl!

And, of course – the loss of Lee Behel is devastating to so many of us. He was a strong leader for the Sport Class and will be missed by so many of us. Bob Mills has moved into the President role of the Sport Class. Bob – you have VERY big shoes to fill. Good luck – we’re all counting on you. ;-)

Jet Class

The Jet Class has created a nice little village on the East Side of the field. They now have their own VIP section and have created a fun fan experience. I remember when they moved down to the other side, how the naysayers thought this was the demise of the class – but turning lemons into lemonade, they made the best of it.

Now they are the 2nd fastest growing class behind the Sport Class. And building more fans every year, who knew!?

This year, in his grand finale, Phil Fogg qualified first and finished first in the Breitling Gold on Sunday. Phil is a true racer, having started in the International Formula 1 class many – I mean a few - years ago. Great send off, Phil – CONGRATS!  It won’t be the same without you!

Phil Fogg battling Rick Vandam - thanks to Roger Cain! 

Rick Vandam qualified and finished 2nd while Pete Zaccagnino, Jeff Turney, Mark Pracy and Sean Cushing were trading places all week.  The final had Pracy beating out the others for third while Zac finished 4th and Rookie Sean Cushing finished fifth.

One thing I wanted to bring up this year – we had 4 different types of jets this year – including the usual L-39 Albatros, the L-29 Delfin, Lachie’s Iskra and Doug Matthews joined us in his Marchetti this year. While she wasn’t fast, she made for interesting viewing. Thanks, Doug!

Unlimited Division

Drumroll please… We now finish out the review with the fan favorite – Unlimited Division. While we had a smaller field than usual this year – the major players were all in attendance. Strega, Voodoo, Rare Bear, 232, Czech Mate, Dreadnaught and Precious Metal were all in attendance and ALL had the chance to win it all – depending on attrition, of course.

Voodoo did it again. Bob Button has put together a winning team with Stevo Hinton, Bill Kerchenfaut, JC Calkins, Mike Wilton, his son Dave Wilton, Steve Lamb, Michael Luvara, Bernie Vasquez, Rod Jackson, Jason Schillereff, Joel Policar, Ray Studniarz, Cecil Padilla, Tim McGahey, John Bond and Frank Young. And don’t forget – Tommy Gardner! (Did I remember everyone?) They made it look easy. They made it look fun!  

What is next for Voodoo? There are rumors about going for some records, including the 3KM and the Time to Climb. If we hear anything more concrete, we will share the news as permitted.

Winner and Still Champion! 

Strega qualified on her Ferry Engine – while Tiger paced the ramp waiting for the race engine delivery. He flew better than most people expected him to – (that’ll show ‘em, Tiger) – but was DQ’d on Saturday by the Contest Committee for “not maintaining course altitude”.

If you remember from some of my earlier writings – since the tragedy of 2011, the course altitude is now 250’ – and Tiger – while moving from last to first, raised it up well over the designated 250’ceiling. Once the race was over, he ended up with a Mayday and was no longer able to race – but if you talk with anyone in attendance that day .. that was THE BEST RACE EVER!

Another unfortunate finish was perennial bridesmaid, Hoot Gibson in 232. Who doesn’t love 232? But the last two years have not been kind to her, or Hoot or their fans. This year, she didn’t even make it to Qualifying. The rumor is 232 is for sale. There is so much potential in that aircraft – if you want to be in the Gold – this might be the race plane for you.

Rare Bear started out looking great. Stewart Dawson qualified second and finished his first 2 races in a strong 2nd place. But then – again – on Sunday – we witnessed the dreaded DNF/Mayday. Rare Bear is taking longer to work out the kinks than anyone expected. We can only hope that her owner, Rod Lewis, doesn’t lose interest. Fingers crossed!

Rare Bear was holding steady in 2nd place – until the Mayday

Czech Mate, the Giant Killer – was back in her top form this year. John Moore, LD Hughes and team plus Race Pilot, Sherman Smoot worked hard over the off –season and brought back a contender. Czech qualified in 3rd, finished the next 2 races in third (even after a pylon cut and a 12 second penalty). However, when it all counted – Sherman finished 2nd. Congrats to the entire team!

Dreadnaught, the jewel of the Sanders Racing Family, qualified 4th and ended up in 3rd on the final day due to lots of DQs and DNFs, etc.

Their Bristol Centaurus powered Sea Fury was flown by Korey Wells and Brian Sanders. 924 Qualified 7th and continued to be competitive in the Silver. She was then bumped to the Gold on Sunday to finish in 7th again.

And of course, Argonaut was flown by Mark Watt. Mark qualified in 8th place and after flying in the Silver, again bumped to the Gold on Sunday. He ended up with a DNF/Mayday in Sunday’s Gold. A very interesting Mayday – to say the least - as Stewart Dawson was making his way to Runway 14, Mark pulled off and headed to the not so great Runway 18. Breathe.

Czech Mate - 2nd Place

Sawbones was flown again this year by Commander Curt Brown and he had some great flights. Qualifying 5th, he ended up in 4th on Sunday – right behind Dreadnaught.

If you’re doing the math, that is FIVE Sea Furys: Dreadnaught, 924, Argonaut, 232, and Sawbones – with four different power plants 4360, Centaurus, 2800 and 3350. Now how is that for trivia?

Rod Lewis’ team brought La Patrona again – his spectacular Silver Tigercat. We were all hoping to see Rod back in the seat, but we were not disappointed to see Stewart Dawson pulling double duty and racing the Tigercat and the Bearcat. Nice work, Stewart!

Sparky and The Rebel were our only Stock P-51 Mustangs this year. Brant Seghetti and Doug Matthews (with a few flights by John Currenti) were there for the stocker fans. I remember not too many years ago we had several beautiful P-51s. I hope we see those days again soon.

Jim Tobul was our Rookie in Unlimited this year. He brought his unbelievably beautiful Corsair, Korean War Hero. He is based on the East Coast and does a number of Airshows each with Scott Yoak in Quicksilver – Scott’s P-51. (Side note: We’d love to get you to Reno too, Scooter!)

Jim and his crew were treated to a great learning experience this year and we certainly hope to see them again next year!

And finally, we have Precious Metal. The buzz for this aircraft is she has a ton of potential – but the team just needs to iron out a few things. This year, pilot – Thom Richard – wasn’t able to qualify due to an early Mayday. He then had to start at the back and work his way up. He easily handled the two stockers and the Corsair in the Bronze Heat – moving him to the Silver. They finished 1st in the Silver on Saturday and bumped to the Gold for Sunday.

Night Runs are ALWAYS EXCITING! 

Unfortunately, the course rules came down and ruined their race – having finished third on the course, Thom was DQ’d for breaking the Showline on the East Side. I remember in 2007 when Matt Jackson in Dreadnaught was surprised to learn that he had broken the Showline and was disqualified also.

While truly a miserable way to end the Race – Thom wasn't the first and certainly won’t be the last to be bitten by the Rules.

Tiger was DQ’d for flying too high, 2 Biplanes and an IF1 racer were DQ’d for flying too low. As long as there are rules, there will be infractions and those infractions lead to upsetting results for some.

Many of us were disappointed in the Social Media attack from the some fans. During a time when our beloved Reno Air Races are on steep and uncertain footing – threatening boycotts isn't really helping anyone. I hope we can all put the disappointments aside and work together to make a wonderful show in 2015.

Final thoughts…

There are so many racers for sale right now. If you are interested in getting involved … as a Racer, Crew Member or an Owner – get in touch with someone who races or contact me through my blog or through Facebook.

Let’s remember to fly fast, turn left – and fly not too high, and not too low.

Thanks, EVERYONE, for a great year! 

Marilyn Dash
Ruby Red Racing
Pylon Place

Special THANKS to Anthony "Hopper" Taylor for providing the photos for this month!
Warbird Fotos