Notes from the Reno Races
Dispatches from the 2007 National Championship Air Races.
- By Larry Lowe
- Air & Space magazine, September 2007
(Page 2 of 5)
Chris Ferguson won the 2007 Biplane Gold championship Sunday morning in his Pitts LR-1, “Miss Gianna,” at a speed of 233.470 miles per hour. The sophisticated “Phantom,” which has been having engine problems all week, pulled out after one lap. Following on Ferguson’s heels were Norman Way at 208.975 in “Magic” and Dennis Vest in “Drag Racer” at 200.924 mph. Rookie Pat McGarry was all smiles in fourth place in a cleaned-up S1S Pitts Special called “Rollin’.”
David Hoover took first place in the 2007 Formula One Gold Race at 245.669 in his Arnold AR-6 “Endeavor,” followed by George Andre at 238.399 in the Cassutt “Zipper” and Scotty Crandlemire in the Cassutt III “Outrageous” at 237.997.
In Sport Class, the highly anticipated contest between Andy Chiavetta’s Super Legacy and the NXT racers flown by Jon Sharp and Kevin Eldridge didn’t materialize. The NXT Super Sport raceplanes are wicked fast, the pair posting qualifying times of 378 and 380 miles per hour, speedy enough to beat 16 of the airplanes in the Unlimited field. Chiavetta’s airplane had a reputed 900-horsepower engine built by Greg Stephenson. But a series of gearbox and prop problems kept the four-time Sport Class champion out of today’s race. “I just don’t think we are running well enough to put Rod [Von Grote, the pilot] in the airplane,” said a clearly disappointed Chiavetta.
In Unlimited, all eyes were on longtime favorite “Rare Bear,” sporting a new paint scheme and under new ownership. The former champion took off for Saturday’s Gold race heat but couldn’t develop full power and placed third at 446.626 behind Matt Jackson in Dreadought at 452.903 mph and Mike Brown in “September Fury” at 470.055. Rare Bear’s crew obviously found the problem, however. The Bear was heard emitting a healthy growl as pilot John Penney opened it up for a full throttle test early Sunday, and the stage was set for a classic Reno shootout between “Rare Bear” and the larger, more powerful Sea Furies.
In the end, “Rare Bear” took the race in commanding style, with a speed of 478.394 mph. Penney claimed an early lead and never relinquished it. Then, after finishing his race, he called an emergency and had to make a deadstick landing on runway 22.
Reno is nothing if not dramatic.
Saturday afternoon: Back to racing
After all events were suspended on Friday an unnatural calm settled on Reno-Stead airport while fans and racers absorbed the impact of three deaths in four days. On Saturday morning, things began to pick up again. As I write this, Mike Brown’s F7F Tigercat is neck and neck, improbably, with a P-51. Two seconds behind them, a Bearcat and another Mustang are locked in a contest for their position. A string of Mustangs follow up in tight trail. Best of all is the whistling whine of the jet class.
We’re racing again at Reno.