Piston Singles Pushing 500 Miles Per Hour
The faithful will make their annual pilgrimage to Reno Stead airport next week to pay homage to horsepower and high speed as some of the gutsiest pilots compete for air racing's most coveted title. Hyped by organizers as the "world's fastest motor sport," and officially called the National Championship Air Races and Air Show 2003, air racing is the main draw to the Reno event, which runs from Sept. 11 to Sept. 14. Several big-name teams are vying for the championship, including 500-plus mph Dago Red Air Racing and the 4000 hp Rare Bear Air Race Team. Rare Bear is a highly modified Grumman F8F Bearcat sporting a Curtiss-Wright R3350 engine producing a whopping 4000 horsepower. The team, which has already established several records, including the official world three-kilometer speed record, world 3,000-meter time-to-climb record, and the Reno Championship Race speed record of 482 miles per hour, will try for another at this year's event. The team will attempt to break its previous Gold Race Championship speed record at Reno. The Dago Red team also has a few achievements to boast about. The modified P-51D Mustang is not only the defending champion, it's also the current Reno qualifying record-holder at 497.797 mph and the current record-holder of the 15-km segment at 517.323 mph. The big, loud unlimiteds are just one of six classes racing at Reno, with, among others, biplanes, Formula One and T-6s providing lots of action. Of course, there also is an air show, starring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, to complement the festivities.