Unlimited Air Racing Dead?

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jvliet

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Dec 4, 2019
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Starting any new air racing class in the USA is now very difficult, as the FAA now issues a Letter of Authorization to the racing class organization, without said letter you cannot conduct an air race! At this time only Reno, IF1 and I believe STOL have these LOAs. Red Bull had one but I believe that it has now expired. To obtain the LOA, an organization has to be created, covering aircraft owners & pilots and race officials. This new organization must show their operational parameters, race pilot competency testing, race course design, race procedures, safety procedures etc etc to the FAA in order to be considered for the possible LOA. And, the LOA must be renewed every two years, so the organization has to go through the submission process all over again. This was one of many problems that hindered the restart of Formula V, besides lack of raceplanes and qualified pilots. Back in the 1980's and 1990's Formula V had all these and enjoyed great success, but it gradually fell apart, their last race was in October 1999 in Indiana. A FV race in October 2001 was shut down due to the Sept 11 2001 terrorist attack, which did great damage to air racing in the USA. I'd say the only way to start any new air racing class is to first get 'big money' behind the concept, to attract new raceplanes and participants, but then 'big money' would want to call the shots and the FAA won't go for that. So...a snowball's chance in hell....
 

speedracer

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Feb 4, 2020
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390
Nobody under 30 these days has any interest in watching warbirds race let alone any interest in watching the other classes race. They can’t even be bothered to eat at a restaurant or go fishing.
There needs to be something truly unique to get more butts in the bleachers, here’s my ideas:
1. Piper cub class, under 100 hp. With paintball guns, lose a second with every hit on your plane
2. Biplane class, must race every other lap inverted, under 200 hp.
3. Airliner class, what could be better that watching 727s and DC8s racing!
4. Helicopter class, must touch down every lap.
I'll bet a figure 8 race would draw in the spectators.
 

mcrae0104

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Last year at PRS, Sherm was generous enough to speak with me and a friend for a few minutes after a flight with a seminar pilot in one of the Sanders’ Sea Furies. Later, we were at a DC-3 event at OSH and Sherm happened to be there—in fact, it was his birthday, and there was a toast and he whole crew sang him happy birthday.

He remembered our conversation a few weeks earlier and despite the fact that he was surrounded by his cadre of old friends and his wife was at his side, he entertained more of our questions for at least a half an hour and recounted all kinds of air racing stories. He was as excited as a little boy to talk racing with a couple of guys he barely knew—truly generous.

We asked him about Chech Mate’s stability; he pointed his index finger up in the air and put his other palm flat on top and wobbled it around. “It’s about like that,” he said. “I have to have both hands on the stick to control the thing. You don’t have time to scratch yourself.” (That’s not a direct quote, it was a little more salty than that. 😉)

Asked if he’d ever fly Chech Mate again, he said no. With a big grin he said,“I’m not a young man. I don’t need to light my hair on fire any more—I haven’t got enough left!”

This year at PRS I didn’t have the chance to talk with him, but he was there to check out a couple of new guys in Mustangs and a beautifully prepared Yak. Standing back 50 yards from one of their debriefs after landing, you couldn‘t hear the conversation but it was fascinating to watch the body language and gestures—it was clear that he was dressing down and washing out one of the Mustang guys, whose poor airmanship showed he was way out of his league. The deference and respect the rookies had for him was unmistakable and well-earned.

I was excited to hear the news he’d be flying Chech Mate again this year. He’d certainly give Dreadnought a run for its money and inject the excitement and energy (that is, real competition) that Unlimited so desperately needs.

I expect some of you had also met Sherm. Please tell your stories about him here. He was a good man and will be sorely missed in air racing.
 

J.L. Frusha

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I'm pretty sure Thom Richard won't be racing anymore. Not after the accident that nearly killed him. He is still running his War Bird Adventures outfit and flying.
 
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J.L. Frusha

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@mcrae0104
I only know him from messaging about other planes. I can't say what his plans are. Rebuilding that plane was never going to be an overnight project. Parts are scarce and getting harder to find, as well as more expensive to make and replace. We have plenty of threads on the rising expense of aviation at our level. I can only imagine the costs involved at the unlimited racing level.

After the fire, Richard stated that Precious Metal would not race again. A lengthy restoration process of Precious Metal to airworthy condition began in 2016.
 
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Martti Mattila

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Feb 24, 2021
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113
JaK 11 trainer where from Czech Mate was build based on WW2 JaK 3 figter plane. Jak 3 had a wooden wing. I wonder what sructure Czech Mate wing had. was it totally rebuild from carbon. Cabin pictures showed Steel tubes that JaK 3 had.
 

Sraight'nlevel

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Nov 4, 2021
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It went 753 km/h.....468 mph.

Not a bad for a "trainer" !

 

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Pops

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Neighbor used to have 2 1/2 Yak 3's. Were steel tube fuselages with the firewall at the LE of the wing. Aluminum wings and tails. Had 4 engines.
At this time he is crating up some T-28 prop blades for someone building a Reno racer P-51.

I was at Lancaster, PA airshow one time and there was a Yak-3 with a small seat added behind the pilots seat. They flew it with 2 people at the show one flight.
 
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Martti Mattila

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Feb 24, 2021
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I´w seen that Yak 3 in WW2 weekend in Reading PA. it has Allison engine. Story I heard was that nineteens in Russia they went some factory building put the lights on and stardet to build Yak trees, prefab parts were plenty on the shelfs. Build six or seven planes and than the Russian manager fled with the money and that was the end.
 

Pops

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Reading is a great place if you are interested in WW-2 equipment. I really enjoy it. Went with my neighbor and he has a restored 1943 Ford Jeep. Also a WW-2 bicycle that I rode around while there.
When I was growing up on the farm we had a 43 Ford. I was driving it when I was 12, 13 years old. We used it as a farm tractor, pulling hay wagons, etc.
 

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mm4440

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The miss-named unlimited class is like the Historic Race Car classes. It is a demonstration class with the main function the safety of the pilots and the irreplaceable machines. The sound and flash of the big piston engines and their airplanes is a big draw for Reno; with out them it is a questionable if the races would survive. The sport class rules are open enough so given the time and money necessary, eclipsing Unlimited records is possible. Sub 500 cu in turbo V-8s can produce over 1000 hp in street tune; and you can use two.
 

TFF

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Speed sells some of it, but speed isn’t all of it. Noise, size, cost along with the speed is what sells. Sport Class makes sense for racers, but it doesn’t makes sense for lay spectators. They want to see expensive beasts. Presence.

Top fuel dragster is the most useless auto ever, yet if you have ever seen one run especially if you have stood at the starting line, it’s gets respect, even if it’s not your kind of racing. NASCAR field at Daytona in formation at 200 mph is another. Road racing, although my favorite, is boring to watch except for the informed. If you are not part of the team, it’s easier to watch on TV than sit where you can only see one corner and get sunburned. Big races have noise and speed. A club race watching some Miata’s run around is only interesting to a few.

If there was money in it, everyone would be running improved Merlin and R-2800 clones made for racing instead of vintage engines. They would have been all composite clones too. If the top drivers in NASCAR make $10+ million a year. Some over $15m. F1 drivers are in the $20+m range. As much as it has the spectacle of the big auto races, Reno is really SCCA club racing. At least the runoffs. It probably costs $2-4 million a year, a lot of money, to take an unlimited plane to the races to win, but it’s still hobbyist out of pocket even with sponsors. They are making Mercedes not be able to spend $300 million on the F1 to give the poorer teams a chance. They struggle at $180 million.

I personally don’t like the idea to see Reno die. It never captured the advertiser eye. Home Depot and M&Ms are not handling over $30 million for a picture on the fuselage, much less other tack on sponsors, and the unlimiteds cost more to run. The throw away money is over. Reno is important to us, but it’s never going to be big ever again. It’s a pilgrimage for a few.
 
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