Getting Ready to Race at Reno


The Sunday before the races is a quiet time.  The pit areas are set up and in some cases airplanes have been on the field for over a week.  No real restrictions yet, no need for tickets, pit passes or such.  In a way it reminds me of the way airports and flight lines used to be before terrorists were lurking around every corner, the TSA didn’t exist and everyone who loved aviation wasn’t a threat to national security.

There is lots of activity on the field, spread out between setting up for the races and getting the racers ready to fly.   I went in to shoot some high angle shots of the main unlimited racers before the field got too crowded.  The pictures came out well.  It was a perfect day.  The visibility was virtually unlimited with some haze on the horizon.  There had been a lot of concern about how the California wildfires would affect the races.  As each day passes they get more under control and they shouldn’t affect the races at all.

For the 50th Anniversary, John Bagley was nice enough to bring back Bob Hoover’s former P-51D “Old Yeller” which John has owned for quite a few years.  Bob was there at the first race in 1964 flying his acro routine in a P-51D and he is back this year too.  Unfortunately he will not be flying, age gets the best of us, even Mr. Hoover.

I thought that the most significant team was the Sanders Team.  They brought three Sea Furies with them.   Argonaut is there as is Dreadnought and “924”.  All three are very different airplanes.  While Dreadnought and 924 are 2 seat dual control TMK20 trainers.  924 has the original Bristol Centarus engine installed and Dreadnought has the massive 4360 in it.   Argonaut has a 2800 in it.  All are different and all are fast.

What I heard and what I can write here are very different things.

We have P-51 Strega flown by Matt Jackson and supposedly sponsored by actor Tom Cruise.  “SteveO” Hinton, who has dominated the races for the last several seasons will be putting his fluid flying style to good use in P-51 Voodoo.  For most all practical purposes both those Mustangs are about the same performance wise.  Rod Lewis brought a pair of racers.   Seafury 232 will be piloted by former Astronaut and my choice for “world’s greatest current pilot” Robert “Hoot” Gibson who took second place overall last year.  The Rare Bear is back after some extensive work at Nelson Ezell’s shop in Breckenridge Texas.  Stewart Dawson will fly it again this year.   Last year the “Bear” was plagued by overheating problems.  Things will be different this year.

I was told that during testing late last week that the Bear was running very fast.  More importantly the cooling problems appear to be behind it.  In past seasons, when the Bear landed the crew took over and started tearing it apart to fix, adjust, modify, change, fine tune, replace broken parts, etc.  After this test flight it was parked and the crew spent their time wiping bugs off it, no wrenches or screwdrivers necessary.  For once, it worked.  It only has to keep working for another week to win.   Of course all those other teams are going to be working hard to see that their airplanes win.

I can say that the 50th Anniversary of the Reno Races will be one interesting race at least in the Unlimited Class.  If you have never been to the National Championship Air Races at Reno, this is the year to be here.  There is going to one heck of a race next Sunday.

You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark1@GMail.Com.

Mark Hrutkay

Mark has been a member of the International Association of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) for several years and attends all their events and seminars. He has won several awards for his work and has been published in several aviation magazines, domestic and foreign. You can contact Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

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