...As Desert Warms Up To Throaty Growls

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Although the cutting-edge Sport Class has been gaining a lot of attention in recent years, many who attend Reno go to see 60-year-old technology that can't be matched in terms of sheer gas-guzzling glory. Last year, Skip Holm, piloting Dago Red, a fully tricked-out P-51, broke the 500-mph barrier with a best time of 507 mph. John Penney, in the famous Rare Bear, a massive Grumman F8F Bearcat (maybe with a huge four-bladed prop this year) was always a close second and both planes are back this year. In fact, they're among 27 Unlimiteds signed up to race.

Putnam said they might have to pare the field back to 26 but that decision hasn't been made yet. She said entries are up in most classes (there are also biplane, Formula One, T-6 and jet divisions) and everything is set for a great event, including the weather, so far. "Eighty-two degrees and not a cloud in the sky," she said on Wednesday.

AVweb's Expanded Reno Air Race Coverage

NXT, The Full Story (On-site coverage by Tim Kern)

Jon Sharp, intrepid team lead for Nemesis, very somberly addressed the pilots' meeting within an hour after his craft's landing incident. He and his wife, Tricia, were obviously quite disheartened; the whole room was sympathetic -- they've all been there. "We had green lights, as usual," Jon said, meaning that his gear indicated "down and locked." "I lowered the tail just a little bit, and I heard a loud 'bang' on the left side." At the time, he didn't know just what kind of problem he had; all he knew was that he had a handful of raceplane, and a problem. "I tried to keep it on the right [keep the weight on the right main gear] as long as I could," he said. "Finally, the left wing went down, and I skidded," turning slowly to the left ... which probably accounts for the right gear's collapse.

"I got out as fast as I could" after it stopped, he said; the airplane was left of the runway and facing it. Jon was unhurt, but the airplane had to sit and bake for hours, as there was no way to retrieve it while the other events of the day were still going on. He had not had time to examine the airplane; all he had were his impressions. "It might have been a tire," he ventured. "I suspect a tire." Whatever really happened, though, he did not know at that time. The Sport Class has been waiting for the return of Sharp and his long-gestating racer. The new aircraft promised to add some spice to Reno's fast-growing Sport Class, as Jon's earlier (Formula 1) Nemesis had been so dominant in the 1990s, winning 47 of the 51 races it entered.

What Is NXT? As a Sport Class racer, Nemesis NXT is a two-place machine that ostensibly has cross-country capability and comfort for both occupants. Its appearance at Reno was set to serve notice on the dominating Lancairs and the competitive Glasairs that something new was coming. Rumors, even last year, were floating about 400-mph laps. Anything at the 350 mark is fast enough to win in the current field.

What Else Is Out There? If NXT remains sidelined, Lancair driver Darryl Greenamyer seems poised to scoop up another trophy, but only if he beats out the rest of the field, currently including Mike Jones' Lycoming 580-powered Glasair plus entrants from a Swearingen SX300 to a White Lightning with two engines one to run the airplane, and another to run the supercharger!