With less than two weeks to go until "the event", many of us begin to get a bit antsy about who and what will be there this year (and who wont). Getting information on this subject usually comes second hand as the folks at RARA (the Reno Air Racing Association) have good reason to keep the official entry list quiet until the last minute. Late entries, plans changing last minute and the ole snafu is always present and will sometimes rear it's ugly head when you least expect it; its just the nature of the beast. This being the case, what will be contained within the next few paragraphs is the best information that I can give you - in other words - about as good as it gets without the "sacred scrolls". I can say this information has been received by good authority and shouldnt be discounted as mere "rumor". That said, lets get on with it shall we .
One of the best things about Reno 97 will be the return of the unlimited class pit area to its former (and vastly superior) location. Just about everyone I talked with last year, thought placing the unlimiteds at the far end of the ramp, with all those support vehicles between the run-up area and the spectator line, was "not a good thing" to say the least (you can just imagine exactly what *was* said ;-). Thank goodness logic has prevailed and the "RENO" that we have all come to enjoy, can again be experienced from the best seats in the house!
And what better place to see the thrill of competition between the top unlimited contenders - Rare Bear, Strega and Dago Red........will we see them at all?....... OK, down to brass tacks! Strega and Miss Ashley (a.k.a. Lear-Stang), will be there. Rare Bear has a good possibility of showing up as well (no promises here though). The "Thunder Mustang" will be making its debut into the air racing fray this year as well (more on this beast later). Although Lloyd Hamilton sold his Hawker Sea Fury #16 Baby Gorilla, (probably already in her new home across the pond) there is good reason to believe that he will again campaign Furias, another Sea Fury, but this babys got a huge R-4360 in the nose! Ridge Runner will be there this year and (although I dont have any firm facts on this) Million Dollar Baby, Huntress III and the Howard Pardues Fury and Bearcat have yet to miss an event since 92 so I assume you can count on them being there as well. Critical Mass is planning to be there (although her owner and "former" pilot Tom Dwelle has been barred from taking the helm - dont go there folks, I couldnt believe it myself). Cloud Dancer and Risky Business are unknowns at this time, but you can bet that Jimmy Leeward and Bill Rheinschild are doing what they can to get there. What would Reno be without Miss America. Will she be there? Cant say for certain.
However, Dago Red appearing at this years event is unlikely at best. At the time of this writing she is attempting to (getting ready or maybe, already has) set the worlds speed record for piston powered aircraft somewhere down south. The crew and her pilot David Price have been planing this for quite some time and are committed to the endeavor. Although I hate to say it, they are not planing "at this time" to compete. Hard to imagine that the P51 that set the crowd on it's ears last year by turning the fastest qualifying lap ever recorded by a Mustang (490+), and virtually ran away from the competition, wont be there. VooDoo Chile is a 50-50 shot (sorry, no details - this is about all I got on this one). Dreadnaught is still a big question mark and I have no information on Don Whittingtons "World Jet" (although I think that having two egg-beaters out there would be the greatest thing next to - well - you know .. probably even *better* than <g>).
On the airshow side of it, look forward to seeing some great performances by the Confederate Air Force "Tora, Tora, Tora!" show, including the B-29 Stratofortress and B-24 Liberator. Julie Clark in her Mopar T-34, Wayne Handley in his new aircraft; the Rebel, Scott Hammick and his jet-powered dragster; Smoke-n-Thunder, The Northern Lights; Canadian 4-ship precision flying team, Patty Wagstaff; aerobatics in her Extra 300 and R.A. "Bob" Hoover flying his Shrike Aero Commander. Add to this the fact that that the United States Air Force will be well represented this year (celebrating its 50th anniversary) just adds excitement galore to this years festivities. (dont forget to look out for the B-2 Spirit Bomber fly-by).
All that can be said about this years event is that it sure promises to be one that I am looking forward to with baited breath. Regardless of who shows up or not, its sure to be kick in the pants.
Cya in the pits,