It’s a gorgeous, warm, dry, smoke-free, wind-less evening at Reno Stead and the racers are eating and drinking through the social hours. Even better, things are looking busy, normal and the mood is unexpectedly upbeat as we head into the final National Air Races at Reno-Stead field.
The mood is upbeat because there is supposedly good news on future air racing. As media types we’ll understandably be the last to know, but the well-informed people we’ve been chatting up are cautiously optimistic. We’ll let you know when we know anything.
The racers are certainly carrying on as if there is going to be plenty of air racing soon. Planes are being upgraded all through the pits.
We’ve hardly been able to check in with everyone in our first few hours at Stead, but here’s a quick review of what we’ve seen so far.
Tom McNerney is here and qualified at a wonderful 345 mph in his new Lancair Super Legacy. We saw (and flew in) this plane at the Pylon Racing Seminar last June when it was in primer. It’s now sporting a handsomely simple white, red and black paint scheme. Tom reports no issues so far and he is, naturally, sneaking up on the power this early in the week.
Tim Slater sold his Harmon Rocket and bought Cruse Missile, a 580 Lycoming powered Glasair III. He’s headed to twin turbos but for this race fitted nitrous oxide injection. The three 20 lb nitrous bottles sit in the passenger seat and are partially controlled by an SDS engine management system, also new this year. Tim put the Glasair in the show with a safe 305 mph qualifying lap today. He reports running rich with lazy ignition timing so he has more speed to tune in as the week unfolds. Look for him to nibble at the mid-field in the Sport Silver.
Andrew Findlay put everyone on notice in Sport Gold with a blistering 406 mph qualifying lap today. We knew Andrew was coming to win this year and so far he’s off to a flying start. Atrocious pun intended.
Jeff LaVelle couldn’t answer Andrew’s big lap saying he’s got a light misfire in the engine. He suspects the 160 octane “Strega” fuel he’s trying for the first time. As we write it sounds like he’s overhead testing and should qualify Wednesday.
Keven Eldridge bought the Glasair III formerly campaigned by Jim Rust and Robbie Grove. He’s fitted a big-inch Lycomings derivative with water cooled cylinders from AC Aero. No word on how it’s running so far.
The Formula 1 hangar looks full and everyone we spoke to reports no issues. Endeavor was not present, but we thought we spied a few new/different planes. Which echos other’s thoughts as they look around the paddock. There seem to be a few new or possibly re-painted planes were not familiar with in almost all classes. Everyone wanted to get in on the action this last time at Reno, it seems.
The only Biplane here is Phantom, as the class retired from this year’s races, while Phantom was invited in as a static display. It’s sitting in its usual spot in the front corner of the “Biplane” hangar.
As for Unlimiteds, Dreadnought is out as reported on separately, but we believe we’ve seen all the expected entrants from recent years. That includes the blue and yellow, ex-Jimmy Stewart Thunderbird P-51, Clay Lacey’s purple P-51 now flown by Vickey Benzing (she’s also running her Lancair Legacy in Sport). We’d hoped Strega or Voodoo might have shown, but no dice.
In short, we’re disappointed to see Dreadnought out, but the Sport Gold contest is shaping up nicely. Ditto the Formula 1 class as Limitless and Fraed Naught are both looking good as they await qualifying. More as we learn it.