Reno Air Racing: Thunder mustang Update!

RENO '98
Duel of the Titans

Sundays’ big race is tomorrow and there has been some interesting developments as well as the inevitable confrontation of the best in the Unlimited Gold Class. With Voodoo and Czech Mate out of the running - there remains only a few contenders that have a better than average chance of taking the win. As usual, there has been a lot of sandbagging throughout the qualifications and heat races - no-one aircraft has really let on to what they are capable of under full race conditions. This *is* the normal course of air racing as the only important lap to lead will be the final one on Sunday. Basically this leads up to a race that is difficult to call, which leads to an even higher anticipation of the Unlimited Gold Race. For the fans, there is nothing more exciting that seeing how this race plays out.

Therefore, let us dispense with the race rumors and get down to brass tacks. Dago Red is the favorite. She has won all heat races and has kept the pressure on the competition. Today, Dago took to the skies with what appeared to be an engine that was miss firing badly. Yes - *but* what this actually was due to was the aircraft sitting too long at idle and the spark plugs "loading up". A situation that is not too uncommon with Reno (a longer wait than what was anticipated) and this problem has been brought to the attention of the race officials. None-the-less, Dago hasn’t had to "open her up" yet - a lot more power is available out of the Dwight Thorn prepared power plant. She is the only aircraft that has a proven capability of 490mph+ lap speeds. She has a great pilot, a great crew - all the ingredients of a winner. Yes, she does have a couple of minor problems. The engine appears to be blowing oil out of the vent under high power settings (she was taken to 140 inches of manifold pressure on this occasion) which was described by team manager Bill Kerchenfant as "snotting". He was not too concerned with problem, even though it appears bad. Another problem that was caught in "pit chatter" was that Dago has a part on the aircraft that keeps cracking (I didn’t catch the actual part that was being talked about). However, Bill is the top in his field and there remains little doubt that Dago’s problems will be cured and the aircraft and pilot will be in top form for tomorrow’s race.

Miss Ashley II is another among the few aircraft in competition that has what it takes to win the Gold. Under the high blower settings the engine sounds marvelous. She also has not put all her ponies to work - and will be unleashing the full power of the Griffon-54 tomorrow. We do know that she is capable of blistering speeds (a confidential conversation with designer Bill Rogers told us how fast she can go) but we cannot release that information at this time for obvious reasons. It suffices to say that her qualifying speed does *not* show what she is capable of. Miss Ashley II also has a great pilot and a great crew..... not to mention that she is one slick looking mean machine. But during Fridays heat race, she had a problem with her landing gear sequencing properly. It was also noticed that she lagged behind the pack today - only catching up to then shortly before rounding Mount Peavine to the west. We do not know if the two incidences described above are related, however we do know that the crew will be addressing this prior to tomorrow’s event. Miss Ashley II in only her second year at Reno - has the potential of pulling-off what may very well be a huge upset. Dago Red better watch this aircraft ;-)

Now, we can not forget "the one who fears nothing" Dreadnought piloted by Dennis Sanders. She may not be the fastest among the aircraft present, but she has proven to be a consistent performer running 455mph lap speeds. However, today she experienced problems with her propeller regulator (which governs the props pitch) and when we left Stead Airport at 7:30Pm this evening - the crew was just starting to reattach the prop. We also noticed that the open cowling reviled what appeared to be an exhaust leak in one of her headers (and what looked to be another "loose connection" in one header pipe immediately below the first). Again, it is unknown if the problems will be cured - but Dennis and company has every chance of getting things squared away. You can never rule out Dreadnought.

What all this means is that we have some extenuating circumstances that could effect the outcome of tomorrow’s race. There is no clearly superior aircraft free from problems - but we will play witness to the turn of events tomorrow in what is known as the fastest piston powered event in the world. To say this is not one to miss is an understatement - one could cut the excitement and anticipation in the air with a knife!

Be sure to tune in to AAFO.COM for the results.......

Story written by Mark Kallio

 

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