Reno Air Racing: Unlimited Course Changed!

New Unlimited Course Layout For "Reno '99"


Since attending the first pylon seminar, held in July 1998 at the Reno Stead Airport, we had been hearing rumors of proposed changes in the layout of the Unlimited pylon course.... . As with any location, progress marches on with an unstoppable forward momentum and the Reno area is certainly no CLICK FOR LARGER VIEWexception to this rule. Residential and commercial growth around the airport and pylon layout at the former United States Air Force base, now known as Reno Stead Airport, indeed, marches on. The Reno Air Race Association, the governing body of the Reno Air Races, has finally been forced to yield to the pressure of this progress. Moving some of the pylons, in order to reduce possible incursion by race planes over the areas just outside the protected airspace of the race course, has taken place.

I talked to several RARA officials while attending the second annual Pylon Seminar, the exact changes made to date, may not be totally set in stone at this point. When we inquired with RARA, prior to flying to Reno, we were told the total change in course distance was in the neighborhood of .9 miles. After catching our breath from hearing of this large lopping of distance from the formerly 9.126 mile course, we decided to make this story the focus of our visit to the 1999 Pylon Seminar. We were able to obtain course maps of both the former layout and the current layout. From the figures posted on these maps, the actual change, *appears* to be .77 miles... though still a fair amount of distance removed from the course, this figure would indicate somewhat less of a radical change.

[-printable version of new map available-]

We talked with the Chairman of the Board Of Trustees of the Reno Air Race Association, Dr. Jack Walther, after his flying of the changed course. His assessment was that it was still a very good layout, perhaps in some ways even better than the former course. He told us some pilots had reported difficulty locating Pylon 4 after topping the hill between between 3 and 4, but mentioned that all visual aids to be present during actual racing were not currently in place and this should not be a problem by September. He seemed confident that the new layout was safer, as well as a truly flyable, competitive and visually exciting race course.

We watched Mike Brown fly many laps around the new course in his beautiful Hawker Sea Fury, "September Pops", he certainly did not seem slowed in any way!
-editors note: There were several other Unlimited airplanes present... as well as a couple of VERY fast Mig's running the course (JET CLASS???) stay tuned for further reports and photos-
Visually, the new layout seems as good for the spectator as ever. With changes made only to pylons 4, 5 and 6, the spectator in the stands should notice only a slightly closer view of the racers on the outer portion of the course.... But what exactly are these changes? We take a closer look at the map for some insight on just what the pilots will face this September.....

Pylon 4- It is difficult to discern the exact change in location of this pylon, as the elevation figure is omitted from the new map, (likely not calculated at time of printing) but it has definitely been moved lower in elevation than its prior position on the course. Formerly located on a knoll, placing it above the surrounding terrain, it certainly will be in a less prominent location..... According to the map, Pylon 4 is now 2,900 feet closer to Pylon 3. The turn angle at Pylon 4, formerly 56 degrees, is now showing as 53 degrees. Pylon 4, now appears to be around one half mile closer to the grandstand area, moved nearly directly in a straight line to the south. Due to the lighting conditions at Stead, "old 4" was probably the best photography location on the entire course, it will be sorely missed by the shooters at Reno. The Reno Air Race Association is keenly aware of the importance of good photos of this event and has promised every effort to provide opportunities equal or better to those provided from the old location..... We will keep our fingers crossed and hope this change will not affect the availability of good Unlimited final event photographs in the future.

Pylon 5- Again, no elevation figure on map. As with Pylon 4, turn angle now shows as 53 degrees, this is down from 57 degrees on the old course layout. Shown as being 798 feet closer to Pylon 4, by looking at the extended centerline of the little used north south runway and the distance from the layout lines on the map, Pylon 5 appears to be some 2,500 feet closer to the grandstand viewing area and around 600 feet east of the former location.

Pylon 6- Now, for those of us who experience the race action from the Valley Of Speed, this one is the key to just how good the viewing will remain out at that location. Watching from the pits this last week, the airplanes still looked to be quite viewable from the VOS area. Let's look a bit closer at the map.... Nearly the same distance from Pylon 5 as in the old layout, this pylon appears to be nearly 2000 feet closer to the grandstand area. With a turn angle, up to 53 degrees from the former 48 degree turn and an, apparently, unchanged distance from the VOS fence line, if any pilot has a difficult time making the turn at speed, one might expect even closer passes than before. Bottom line...... Valley Of Speed viewing should remain one of the best places to watch the amazing speeds these propeller driven airplanes achieve coming down the hill towards Pylons 7 and 8!

Stay tuned for more information on the layout, pilot impressions and official word on the new Unlimited Course at The Reno National Championship Air Races!

-Wayne Sagar-

This is the first in our series of reports from the second annual Pylon Seminar. Although Critical Mass was not ready to fly to Reno for the event, Tom Dwelle and son Ken were there to attend the classes. We were able to obtain photos of the airplane, undergoing work in the hanger.... There will be some very noticable changes in this beautiful racer for Reno '99! Stay tuned for this report.

We also met and spent time with two new racers to enter in the Biplane class. Ever ask yourself, just what does it take to get into racing at Reno? Their stories will shed some light on what it takes to enter the frey at Reno. These stories and more, coming from our visit to the second annual Reno Pylon Racing Seminar!

The 1999 Reno National Championship Air Races Will Be Held September 16-19 At Stead Field, Reno Nevada. Qualifying and Practice Events Run September 13-15 And Offers Some Of The Most Exciting Action Of The Entire Week. For Ticket And Lodging Information go to:

-Notice to Reno Air Race Teams and Interested Parties: Printable versions of this new course map are available via email. We would put them on the site but the size needed to get a decent printout is about a half meg. If you would like this version for printing a copy of the map, email us at and we will send you a copy-

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