Reno Air Racing: Thunder mustang Update!

Tuesday 9-14


We promised you images, and we always try to keep our promises.... In the AAFO.COM image vault, there are, quite literally, thousands of images of this year's event to date (we're not kidding!)..... Of course, nobody (including us) will ever see them all... But... AAFO.COM's, Mark Daniels, is doing a bang up job of getting some of the very best we've shot to date, processed and returned to the "Inside Air Racing" mobile HQ... We've got the generator humming and the scanner buzzing and bring you some of what we've captured to date, images are "clickable" with 800x600 versions available for your desktop... or whatever PERSONAL USE you like. All we ask is that any reproduction of the images shown here carry the photo copyright and no COMMERCIAL reproduction or rebrodcast, either digitally or other media, including other website use is allowed.

Let's begin with one of the returnee's, absent from last year's event. Always a crowd favorite, Lyle Shelton's RARE BEAR! This year, the awesome sounding gold and white beast is being flown by Matt Jackson and John Penney... Taking the clock today, Matt posted an impressive 468.780, putting the airplane in a solid position for the upcoming heat races... John Penney took the course later in the day and did even better (unofficially). Rare Bear crew member Mark Weir just stopped by the press shack on his way out for "necessities" (and some coffee for this tired reporter) telling us they would, likely, be working on the airplane well into the AM tomorrow repairing a damaged cylinder.... These early times posted by the pilots, not as used to the course as they would usually be, (totally different flavor this year) will likely improve steadily as more time is spent lapping the newly laid out, and impressively fast, Reno National Championship Air Race course! This is air racing!

On to the wildly painted, Monday jinxed, Voodoo (remember Bob's engine compartment fire last year on Monday).... We mentioned the prop failure yesterday that put Bob Hanna into a very dangerous situation with a "runaway" overspeed prop. An inspection today by engine builder, Dwight Thorne, determined that the engine was toast (damaged bearings.. at least). Despite the generosity of the Dago Red Team "loaning" their spare engine to Voodoo.... And after a valiant effort installing the new engine by the Voodoo team, it was determined that the prop overspeed had damaged the propeller as well as the engine...... As of now, Voodoo IS out of competition. (any holders of a race ready prop out there... please step up now!:) *IF* a new prop can be landed by the team, expect them to do the time necessary to install same and we will see them in the show.... It does not look good, but this is Reno, a place of absolutely amazing energy by all involved. It would not surprise this reporter to see this airplane compete.... despite nearly insurmountable odds against it..... Stay tuned!

click here for a close up of Miss Ashley II on the taxiway!Sometimes it seems that even the best teams can be snake bitten. Miss Ashley II is on this serpentine list this year. Due to our logistical proximity to this team.... (oh well.. so they're over 200 miles away from the AAFO.COM base) we have become quite familiar with their efforts. Huge efforts would be a better way to describe this team's work towards the gold, to date. How many teams, running today, are racing a completely home built airplane?! We've talked at great length of how one man's dream, (Bill Rogers) infected this energetic group. We watched, with complete admiration, the effort to make this airplane faster over the last year. New scoop, more nitrous, new fairings for the cooling system exhaust... and on and on. After a completely trouble free flight to Oshkosh in July, the snake lifted his head and bit them firmly on the ass during the ferry flight from Washington State to Reno last Saturday. Prop seal failure, covering the windscreen with oil and blinding pilot, Gary Levitz, forced them to land at Eugene, Oregon for repairs... Problem fixed.. but not... Three times they have chased the demon from the prop. Finally beating back the snake... at least far enough to race, they are now chasing a cooling problem. Not an insurmountable one, simply a symptom of the evolution from the basically stock (not nearly but it looked it) cooling scoop to the radical NACA based design now sported by this racer. Spray bar placement is crucial when pushing the limits as they have with this design, and there simply is no way to test the placement other than run the airplane hard and change it if there is too much heat. This is the bane of race teams at Reno. There never is enough time to fully test a new change.. Only at Reno can the systems be fully tested. High power settings on a pylon course, quite simply have to be tested on the course at Reno... This team is fully stocked with some highly skilled aviation engineers and we fully expect to see this problem stuffed and put away prior to the conclusion of the event.

Another returnee this year is Tom Dwelle and the "super sea fury", Critical Mass. Both Tom and his Sea Fury have been missed at the air races and we're very happy to see them return. Many modifications to this already highly modified Hawker bring to the event a welcome addition to the field for the last race of the millennium. After their mishap with metal fatigue and the resultant cowl and damage during the 1997 event, it was decided by the Critical Mass Team, to totally rework their racer. Most notable is the addition of a Rare Bear "clone" engine and "slow nose case" assembly. But they did not stop there. Extensive fairing of the new cowling, "flowing" it into the fuselage, a complete rework of the plumbing, major rework of the vertical stabilizer and some changes they keep under their hat, have made this racer a definite gold contender. Posting a very respectable 430.840 today, one look at Tom will tell you just how happy he is to be back on the pylons at Reno and in his beautiful Taco Bell sponsored Sea fury!

We can cover two airplanes missing at Reno '98 in one really good photo by AAFO.COM's, Mark Daniels... Well one of them was here, but did not fly. If you've seen the latest Austin Powers movie, you'll get a really big kick out of this next shot of Strega and her... "mini-me" Thunder Mustang! Tiger posted the best time of the event, so far, today... besting Monday's time by Bruce Lockwood in Dago Red. Tiger's 479.620, is just enough to put him on the pole..... a place he is very familiar with at the Reno Pylons... Tommy Rose, flying the beautiful Thunder did not take the clock today and did not post an official time. We were talking to Sport Class pole holder, Dave Morss, during one of Tommy's runs, however. Morss did a quick and dirty, "unofficial" timing of Rose and from all appearances, Morss is not in danger from what, would be thought, to be the airplane to beat. Morss turned in an absolutely amazing speed of 335.287 today! Remember, this in a "family" airplane that you and I can take the kids away for the weekend in! Actually.... Amazing is not descriptive enough for this speed. We asked Dave if there had been changes in the airplane from last year (he has improved quite a lot from last year's time!) his answer.... "there have been a lot of changes" Morss and the Lancair he is flying are not the only story in the Sports though. The little Questair Venture's are blistering the course as well. David Anders, flying the Eggstra-Special, Questair turned in a waay fast 311.623 placing him firmly in second slot in the ever impressive Sport Class! We were impressed with these little "egg-like" airplanes from the first time we saw them at the 1998 "rookie school" (pylon seminar)... No question, the addition of this class is adding an extremely exciting flavor to air racing.

There are some very interesting results coming in from the time runs at Reno to date... nine entries are qualified at over 400 mph..... four at over 445 and three at over 465... and this on a shortened course that many thought would be MUCH slower! What's happening? Damned if we can figure it out... But we're liking it!

Many other stories are involved with this year's event... much too many to detail in today's update (it's nearly 2:00 AM and we're about out of steam for today) check out Len Ashburn's results list and make your own assessment.... Records broken.... faster speeds than in years... is there magic in the air at this year's Reno... YOU BET there is! And there is still time to get here to see it happen!

-Wayne Sagar-

special thanks to Neal and Birgitta Nurmi for their assistance in the preparation of this article!

(ed's note: please pardon any typo's or errors in our updates at this year's event.... We're walking the flightline from early AM and preparing updates very late into the next AM... If we take the time to totally prepare and edit the updates, we'll simply have to provide less information... this is live Internet coverage folks... grammar mistakes, typos and all :)

(ed's second note: Wednesday's results will be published on thursday.... We're taking tomorrow off and heading north for a day of R&R with someone very special in our life who is having their 40th birthday.... Stay Tuned!)


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:

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