A Good Thursday

Normal maintenance and inspections are the norm throughout the Reno paddock as Andrew Findlay’s crew demonstrates.

It’s Thursday and the Sport Gold heroes are already running 402 mph heat races.

Even better, from Sport through Formula 1 all the airplanes appear healthy and ready for Friday’s heats. That alone is a win, especially in Sport Gold where temperamental engines typically provide all sorts of unwanted drama. But Jeff LaVelle, Andrew Findlay, Sean Van Hatten, Tom McNerney, Mathias Haid, Matt Ramsey, Vicky Benzing and Peter Balmer finished in that order, in good condition for tomorrow.

Of course the big rivalry for the win is between LaVelle and Findlay, and neither is sparring the horsepower even this early in the week. The pair ran nearly identical 402 mph race averages today and as a pair ran away and hid from the rest of the race. Both racers came to win the last Sport Gold championship ever at Reno and they’re getting an early start on their goal. Today’s heat race was won at a pace that would have won nearly any recent Sport Gold race. Heck, they’d be taking third in Unlimited if allowed to run there.

There’s an equally tight race for third between Sean Van Hatten and Tom McNerney. They ran 353 and 352 mph respectively today. Van Hatten is running Mojo, a veteran Glasair III racer, while McNerney is trying out his new Lancair Super Legacy. You can rest assured both are in their pits as you read this, busy looking for whatever speed mods they can find.

The pairings continue with last year’s surprise (and surprised) winner Haid two mph faster than Matt Ramsey, 333 vs 331 mph. Both are mounted in their usual Thunder Mustangs. The difference is the Falconer V-12 engine Ramsey loaned to Haid last year—which he promptly went out and won all the marbles with 12 months ago—is back in Ramsey’s 777 racer.

Benzing is a notch back at 315 mph, but with Peter Balmer right there with her at the same speed. This is a sharp Sport Gold field with both speed and close pairings deep down the grid.

In Formula 1 today’s Gold heat was run without Justin Meaders, who was busy lapping everyone in the Silver to make up for his mayday yesterday (see separate story). This meant Josh Watson was a fairly easy first place at 233 mph, followed by Justin Phillipson at 227 mph in his very lightweight No Strings Attached. Tim Cone was a very close third at 226 mph.

After the top three the F1 field was fairly well spaced apart. Not to worry, with Meaders back in the Gold heat race tomorrow there will be plenty to watch as he and Watson duke it for the lead.

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Tom Wilson
Pumping avgas and waxing flight school airplanes got Tom into general aviation in 1973, but the lure of racing cars and motorcycles sent him down a motor journalism career heavy on engines and racing. Today he still writes for peanuts and flies for fun.


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