|01/13/99: AAFO.COM UPDATE
Work is progressing well for Team Rare Bear and that can only mean good things for those of us that are looking forward to seeing her at this year's event. It goes without saying that her appearance at Reno '99 would mean two things above all else - the thunderous roar of the Rare Bear, one of Reno's best, has returned once again to blister the course at record speeds (she still holds the course qualifying record of 491+ MPH and the Unlimited Race record of 481.618 MPH ) - which translates into the fact that the remainder of the field will face some fierce competition. For the race fan, it doesn't get any better than that. For the competitors, it's the challenge that all attempt to attain - to beat the best of the best in a heads-up match, pitting man and machine in the ultimate quest for speed.
There are some noteworthy changes in store for Team Rare Bear. Owner Lyle Shelton will not be at the controls this year. His time and attention will be focused on getting the aircraft prepared for the race and spearheading team operations. Time is a precious commodity that has limits - and unfortunately the demands on Lyle's time are quite formidable. We'll indeed miss him from the cockpit - but he'll still be at the Rare Bear camp as always and in the thick of things during race week.
Spokesperson for Rare Bear Racing Shirlee Kurtz fills us in on the details. "John Penney is going to be our back-up, and Matt Jackson is going to be at the controls. He is becoming a major contributor in getting the plane flying again. The team is very proud to have such a notable pilot/mechanic as part of the team. So, like I said before, changes are happening to the Bear in positive ways."
Matt Jackson is one of the talented group of air race enthusiasts that call Van Nuys Airport home and has been entrenched in air racing for many years. Involved in projects by the name of Stiletto and Mr. Awesome - Matt is no stranger to radical air racers. Matt and Dave Cornell (Lyle Shelton's old crew chief) have been busily working on their own custom racer, American Sprit, over the last few years and reportedly have secured the necessary funding to finish that project. Matt has also been a key figure in the Bill Rhienschild camp over the years, most recently trading off piloting duties with "Rhino" flying the P-51D Risky Business and the Hawker Sea Fury Bad Attitude during Reno '98. His expertise will be instrumental in getting Rare Bear back to Reno.... and his piloting skills rank him among the best out there.
As a good friend once said, "It takes three things to win at Reno, any of which is lacking will cause significant problems.... (1) a well built and maintained *fast* aircraft, (2) a great pilot and (3) a great team." Seems to me like Team Rare Bear will have what it takes in all three categories. If work is completed in time, then to say she will be a force to be reckoned with is an understatement...... she'll be the one to beat!
On the Rare Bear work-in-progress front - Shirlee tells us that: "Things are quiet at the hangar, prop is gone so that means they are inspecting it and mounting it for its ride to Reno soon."
I'm sure we're all waiting with baited breath for this year's event. Although it's way too far in the future to foresee what and who will be there to greet the fans...... it defiantly is shaping up into a very interesting pre-race season. Stay tuned to AAFO.COM for future updates.... you'll not want to miss 'em.
Story by: Mark Kallio
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