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Miss Ashley II: New Look

click here for enlarged view -75kFor those of us awaiting the next "Reno", the stretch of time from September to September seems a limitless, month-after-month grind of watchful anticipation. The teams working to make the already very fast Reno pylon racers faster have quite another view. To them, the cycle of the seasons moves forward at the accelerated pace of the airplanes they seek to make faster. They race the succession of months with the same competitive zeal as the pilots racing the seconds of the pylon stopwatch. But their race against time never seems to allow enough of the precious commodity to do what is needed. The desire to go faster fuels a never ending quest, hard working crews (mostly volunteer) labor night-and-day, year-round, to achieve their goals - Race teams become families, families parts of teams. - This need for speed becomes nearly an obsession for everyone involved, bringing forth a level of dedication by the participants hard to measure by normal standards.

All of the airplanes that take the Reno pylons are fast, but faster is better and only the fastest achieve the goal -Taking home the Gold!- Going faster is all about details, even the smallest thing can sometimes make the difference. Many times, a lot of small things add up to one measurable gain. Those of us that attend the annual speed-fest at Reno see merely the end result of the long and tireless efforts of those that bring this grand event to reality. Without the effort and dedication of hundreds of team members across the country -there simply would be no "Reno"-

.......Dedication and attention to detail is what this story is about.........

Since first hearing of the airplane we now know as Miss Ashley II and the combination of engine, airframe and wing that were being used, we've kept a close eye on the progress of the Levitz-Rogers Racing Team. Last year's addition of Nitrous injection and the beautiful carbon fiber leading edge, brought their speed potential up several notches, prompting one wry pit observer, Brad Haskin, to comment -"Gary's got the rubber band wound a bit tighter this year"- Indeed, he did- But problems encountered during the flights at Reno put a bit of slack back into MA2's "rubber band".

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The Rolls Royce Griffon, used by the Levitz/Rogers Racing-Miss Ashley II, though substantially larger in cubic inches, (as well as in physical size) produces less power than a race trimmed version of its little brother, the Merlin. By far, the more commonly used engine in the Mustangs raced at Reno, the Merlin has a history of hot-rodding going back to the beginning of the current air racing series. There exists a bag of speed tricks for the racing Merlin that is deep and well known by most race teams using it. The decision by Levitz-Rogers Racing to use the far more plentiful Griffon put them in the position of breaking new ground to find more power for this particular variant of the wonderful Rolls Royce V-12 series. But the formula for going fast around the pylons at Reno is not just about wringing as much extra power as possible out of whatever engine is used. Drag on the airframe means more power to overcome it, finding ways to make the airframe more "slick" is, at least, as important as finding more power to pull the airplane through the air.

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Bill Rogers and company have been looking at just this formula since the first piece of metal was bent and the first rivet head counter-sunk and flattened on their sleek racer. When we last talked with the team, we reported the plans for improving engine performance (like putting one in that was running on all the cyls :) as well as modifications to be made in the area of the belly scoop on MA2. The air scoop for the P-51 Mustang provides cooling for the engine coolant radiator, as well as the oil cooler. It has long been known as an area where airflow improvements can yield large speed gains. When we heard about changes to be made to the scoop, quite honestly, we expected to see modifications on MA2 that were consistent with what is seen on Dago Red, Strega and Voodoo...... We were in for a big surprise!

Report originally published and copyrighted 1999 Airport Fence Productions, Inc.


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RENO Air Races 2013