Reno Air Racing: Reno '98 Action Report

RENO '98
Day 5 Action Report


Ahh Reno... I spend my time at the National Championship Air Race event doing the same thing every year.... Trying to see it all, feel it all and be everywhere something is happening... No matter how hard I try, I always leave something for the next day.. year, that I simply did not get to see..... Ahh Reno!

I sometimes find that writing about Reno is the same exercise... I want to write down every single thing I see...convey every feeling...and record every image and sound... With that in mind...I'm going to simply tell you about the last heat race of the day. It's the one that still hangs freshest in mind and is probably the most exciting of the event to date......

There is more ramp gossip this year between the leading contenders than we've seen in many years of coming to Reno: Miss Ashley II.... Is she sandbagging?? Is she in trouble?? Just how much is there in her piggy bank of power? NOBODY knows but the cagey Texan who built her and the equally shrewd pilot that flies her..... Hell...*they* may not even know! Rumors on the ramp run from her being on the edge of a 500mph lap to being totally outclassed by the likes of Dago Red and the upstart Voodoo!

Voodoo: Just where is the tape going to fall on this much modified entry? Since we last saw this entry at Reno '97 she's gone through many changes.. Most notable, visibly, is the addition of up to 1" of "bondo", in key places to smooth the air flow. As with any new or newly modified entry, Voodo has a lot of eyes on her... Just how well will all the changes make her perform? Her first time out on the course this year ended in a mayday by Pilot, Bob Hannah when smoke filled the cockpit. I personally saw many faces drop in the pits when this airplane with so much expectation placed on her came in smoking....Was this it?.... Had she broken so easily. The smoke was an easily repaired problem (stacks too short, exhaust heat going where it will....not where crew and pilot want it to) But the seeds of doubt are sewn.... Talk runs now to not will she win...but will she break!

This brings us to the other high visibility entry into this last heat race of this Friday Reno '98 session....

DAGO RED! There is no speculation here, this is a proven entry, one of the fastest of the fast, a giant killer..... DAGO! One look at Team Dago and you see the determination of a crew with a purpose and a common direction. Right smack in the center of this newly formed team is none other than the crew chief's crew chief, Bill "Kerch" Kerchenfaut. Here is the odds on favorite for the season. The biggest boy on the block.....DAGO!

Let's set the stage for today's race....Earlier this week MA2 seemed to be struggling....every time they put some power to the engine they were right back in the pits tearing into the engine again and again.... Cooling problem? Cam timing? WHAT!?! The actual reasons are not perfectly clear, but a re-torque of the head bolts each time the engine goes past the standard power settings, as per the Rolls Royce maintenance manual, is the probable reason for much of the attention... All week the team appears to be not quite on mark...then three days ago smiles..... everywhere you look in the MA2 pit there are very wide grins...... This does not go unnoticed by the other main players... The boys in the other Red plane's pits are beginning to notice....Then on the second qualifying effort the canopy begins to lift away from it's rails, most likely from speeds not previously seen by the big Red & White Cortaluds Aerospace sponsored "LearStang" *something* just may be going on here.

Voodoo.... First time out... smoke in the cockpit....then she *SMOKES* the field and qualifies into first place in the Unlimited class... This also does not go unnoticed by the other players in this game.... Dago.... New crew, new owner, new Crew Chief..... Proven fast airplane.... MA2... Happy guys all round and a powerplant airframe combo never really tested to the maximum level.... Now...throw all of these guys into the mix for Friday's last heat race.... Add a dash of one really fast looking "Smooter Scooter" #86 Czech Ride... (much speculation and hope on this entry as well!) Add one measure of the largest engine in the business, bolted on another proven winner.......DREADNOUGHT!! Even the name makes me shiver! Still more flavor to this mix is the Bill Rheinschild flown Risky Business.... Gentlemen...You HAVE a race!

One by one the racers pull off the west end of the main runway at Stead and roar by the thirsty crew out at Pylon 8..... High anticipation.... MA2? Dago? Dreadnought? Voodoo? WHO will pull this off. Will MA2 let her dog off his leash? Will Dago pull all of the stops out? Will Dreadnought push them all to the breaking point!?!

Then it happens.... Gary blows by in MA2 and we hear Brad Haskin yelling "Gear Doors!!!" They are hung down...... This is not good for the MA2 boys!

Any hope Gary has of pulling out the stops are dashed when he has to fall far behind the field to recycle the gear at a slower speed and stow them out of the airstream....The problems for Gary multiply when he recycles the gear..... The hung out doors.... The right gear door is ripped off and falls to the desert below. Gary has a gaping hole in his otherwise sleek profile. Even with Nitrous fed into the engine he can not push past 400 mph..Opportunity lost.

With all eyes on the line of planes coming down the chute, a determined Bob Hannah, assumes the first position on the first lap.....*AHEAD* of Dago and all of the others!

Lap after lap Dago is sniffing the bondo in Voodoo's slipstream... Dreadnought nipping away....very near.....pushing......waiting.... Gary holds on firmly to last...... Sherman holding firmly and smoothly on to his fourth place position...

Nearly no time left...someone has to move... Dago is coming up to play! Moving up like he has a mission..... a mission to not be anything lower than 1st, Bruce takes the slot and heads for the hills.... he is playing his hand.....or part of it... Comon' boys... Come up and get me!

Gary, equally determined to *NOT* come in on the last place position. opens up, showing a little of what he has (even with the door gone)... taking over fifth place... To make matters worse, a pylon judge calls a cut....Apparently, Gary, has cut outer 6 and will penalized for it....10 seconds added to his clock........ This is what Reno is about...... Fast is good.... Faster is always better. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, IS the FASTEST motorsport in the world!

story by: Wayne Sagar- ed's note: We regret the missnaming of the pilot flying Risky Business in the original posting of this article as Mat Jackson


Pilot Race #

Aircraft Name

Aircraft Type Race Speed

Bruce Lockwood

4 Dago Red P-51D 430.931

Bob Hannah

5 Voodoo P-51 426.902

Dennis Sanders

8 Dreadnought Sea Fury 426.061

Sherman Smoot

86 Czech Mate Yak 11 391.748

Gary Levitz

38 Miss Ashley II LearStang 376.123*

Mat Jackson

45 Risky Business P-51D 365.704

*Cut Outer 6 Pylon on Lap 5, +10 seconds penalty

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