The North American P-51 Mustang
"Salute to Champions"
Fourty-44-Four Years Running!
September 12-16, 2007
Once a year is all you get to enjoy the fastest motorsport in the world. The good news is that you can enjoy the air racing in person for a whole week. Qualifying starts on Monday, and the final Unlimited Gold race is Sunday afternoon.
Expect to hear some different languages spoken as fans from around the world come to enjoy this awesome sport. Where else can you find 9 unlimited racers coming down the chute with 3,000 horse-power, or more, side by side at speeds that have exceeded 500 mph. Oh, and they do this at fifty (50) feet above the ground!
The unlimited race course covers a bit over 8 miles in the high desert on the northwest side of Reno-Stead airport. Surrounded with hills and plenty of sage, the setting is beautiful and the weather is usually near-perfect. This year the weather matched that near-perfect promise, but it's not always that way. Windy, cold and blustery are words that describe some days in September at Reno. When you come, check the weather and dress accordingly. I have dressed from shorts to parkas and everything in between.
The races have six main classes: biplane, formula one, sport, T-6, jet and the
unlimiteds with four different course lengths. The biplane and formula one classes
share the inner course that covers 3.18 miles. T-6 and sport classes have their
own courses at 5.06 and 7.08 miles respectively. The jets and unlimiteds share
the outer course which measures 8.48 miles. Five jet racers qualified at over
500 mph, but none reached that lap speed during a race.
The fastest biplane is around 250 mph while the vast majority are under 200. Formula one racers top out just faster than the fastest biplane at 258 mph this year, but the majority of formula one racers are over 200. The T-6s are bunched very close on speed and they have some of funnest races to watch. They are all above 200 mph and this year's top racer qualified at 238. The Sport class covers speeds from 225 to almost 400 mph! Yup, the fastest sport racers turn the course faster than the stock unlimiteds. The top flight of the sport class is called "Supersport".
The jets, mostly L-39s, are over 400 mph and four over 500 this year. The unlimiteds range from low 300 mph stock warbirds to highly modified Beacats, Sea Furies and Mustangs that fly in the high 400's. Dago Red (modified P-51 Mustang) holds the course record at 512 mph!
Qualifying starts on Monday, ends at noon Wednesday. Racing starts Wednesday afternoon for all classes except the unlimiteds. Races continue each day, Sunday the last, with all classes racing every day with multiple heats. That's right. Come to Reno and you get to see three unlimited heats each day. During the breaks between races, you will get entertained by the finest airshow acts around.
However exciting and fun it is to watch air racing, the pilots and fans know that
it is serious business. Air racing is done at close proximity to other racers
with wind, wakes and engine troubles that are unseen and quick to happen. "Mayday"
is heard over the scanner every year and mostly due to engine failure, or better
termed engine destruction sometimes. Handling emergencies is part of all racing
pilots certification for racing at Stead.
The Reno Air Races of 2007 suffered three fatalities in three different events. Details of these events are covered on another page. The pilots, crews and the Reno Air Race Association (RARA) handled these tradegies with courtesy and professionalism to finish the week strong and safe.