Reno Air Racing: Thunder mustang Update!

Monday 9-13


Sitting in the deserted press room at the Reno National Championship Air Races at 11:00 PM on Monday, September 13, 1999, I am asking myself... Just where to begin!

What a day! (this certainly is an understatement) Let's start with Bruce Lockwood flying Dago Red... Remember our speculation about just what the new shortened course would bring to the Unlimited Class? Today Bruce showed us just exactly what it will mean! NADA! As we watched the Unlimited Class begin timed runs today, we were particularly impressed with the apparent speed of the Lockwood piloted, Dago Red. Not long later we were even more impressed with the "official" posted time of 479.237! What can you say about such speed on a course thought to be much slower? How about AMAZING!

We spoke with Bruce shortly after his run... Bruce told us he had time to spend on the course during the June pylon seminar... that practice was invaluable, to be sure, but further he told us the course is very smooth in the area that was changed... Obvious results... A posted entry speed that is going to be the one to beat for this year's event. Just how significant is the 479 posted by Lockwood.... Let's look at last year's speed.. Bruce Lockwood posted a qualifying speed of 443.932, flying the airplane on the "old", longer course... Just how significant is the fact that he, today, on the new shortened course, posted a speed nearly 37 MPH faster? In this tired reporters eyes... Pretty damned significant, indeed! But, it is early yet, and many competitors have yet to take the course. Not the least of which is the prop seal plagued MA2 team. The first seal went out on the trip down from MA2's Everett base. Principal pilot, and race pilot for this year (despite rumors to the contrary) Gary Levitz, phoning his partner telling him the airplane was on the ground in Eugene and covered in oil... Levitz, not feeling well, opted to fly on to Reno and have MA2 second pilot, Skip Holm, complete the flight once the repairs were made. (hence the beginning of the rumor of his not being able to attend this year's event) The problem with any repair on any machine: You have to take off other parts to get to the bad part... Often, this will cause problems with the parts removed. Such was the case with the MA2 team. A second prop seal failure yesterday (Sunday) gave the tired team more work.... A third failure today... the outer most seal in the complex two hub, contra rotating, twin three blade system on Miss Ashley II, finally deciding it had enough abuse. Removal of this seal twice to get at the other seal failures, finally causing this last seal in the chain to give up the ghost. Despite this... Team a team spokesperson told us the parts are on the way from a supplier and they are ready for action.

We began this update with the comment, where to begin... As the evening draws on.. we find ourselves asking the question... where to end! We can not hope to bring you all the action seen here today in one short article... Let's jump on to other details of the day....

James Nezgoda gave us all a start when he lost control of his Yak-3 on take off today. A very scary cartwheel crash in the infield was the result. Looking at the wreckage, a very nasty scar just aft of the cockpit, made when the wing snapped and smashed into the fuselage, shows just how close this one was for Nezgoda. Bottom line on this one... James walked away... The aircraft is substantially damaged, but Nezgoda is walking around the pits talking about... and as one wise old pilot told us today... "any one you walk away from is a good one".

Another very scary moment: Bob Hannah is beginning to feel that Monday is just not his day! Last year a fire in the engine compartment caused a mayday, on, you guessed it, Monday. One year later, a runaway prop caused a mayday and a blown engine, taking him and his promising entry, Voodoo, out of the competition for the event.... We'll have a further update on this mishap, including a very animated conversation with Hannah just after his successful landing....

In the formula one class.... Long time Reno competitor, Ray Cote, posted a very significant 252.219! This in a very old design airplane... This speed is very much in the class of the highly sophisticated F-1 entry, Nemesis... Hang in there Ray! We may just see a race for first place in the mostly "who's gonna win second" formula one's!

We're gonna wrap this update... go get some sleep, and log on tomorrow with more... For today's results, and further details on the happenings of day one.... click on Pylon Judge Len Ashburn's update sheet! Len kindly agreed to share his observances with us this year... Many thanks to Len and all the fine pylon crews working in the background to make this one of the finest motor sports events in the world!

ed's note: in our effort to get the story of the 1999 Reno National Championship Air Races out to our readers, we've elected to place our emphasis on the story. Pictures do say thousands of words, but accurate reporting of the event is tantamount in our minds. We WILL have pictures of the event as soon as we can have them properly processed and placed on the site. For now... We will continue to bring you the story of this event as we see it, through our eyes and the eyes of our contributors... STAY TUNED!

-Wayne Sagar-


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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