Reno, The Power And Glory

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Paperwork Change Helps Boost Speeds...

The 500-mph barrier has been smashed at the Reno Air Races -- at least on paper. Dago Red, the intensely modified P-51 with Skip Holm on the stick, recorded an average speed of 507.105 mph during a qualifying heat Friday, becoming the first to do so. Dago Red also took the Unlimited Gold this weekend with Rare Bear in second. But the numbers might be a bit misleading since race organizers have changed the way they calculate speed and time for this year's races. The race distance used to be measured from pylon to pylon. The new calculation allows for the curving path of the aircraft around the course and the distance they travel is thus increased. Pilots were told to expect speed increases of about 2.5 percent, so, under the old measurement system, Dago Red would have missed the magic number by about five mph. Holm told the Reno Gazette-Journal he'll take the honor, regardless of the circumstances that helped him achieve it. "If they're going to make changes, they're going to have to live with them," he said. There was other excitement at the spectacle. Biplane racer Tom Aberle withdrew after breaking two propellers. He had plenty of spares but they were all made by the same company. "So, I will not risk myself, my peers or the crowd without further testing," said Aberle, who had won two qualifiers. Another biplane racer, Jacquie Warda, made an emergency landing with electrical problems and a T-6 flown by Gene McNeeley also called a mayday with fuel problems. Unlimited pilot and former astronaut Hoot Gibson was fined for low flying in his Sea Fury but he got to keep his second-place finish in the heat.