Exploring the need for speed
Special to The Union
With the start of the world’s fastest motor sport only hours away, pilots from across the country will have a chance to show what months of modification, fine-tuning and preparation of specialized aircraft (not to mention flying finesse) can do as the 45th annual Reno National Championship Air Races gets underway today.
What is not known is the degree and strategy Lake of the Pines resident Ken Dwelle and his father and 20-year racing veteran, Tom of Auburn have prepared their World War II vintage AT-6 named “Tinkertoy” to best last year’s champion, Dennis Buehn in their class.
“We just dusted her off after parking it for 11 months, flew it a little for the Auburn Air Fair and decided we’re ready to go” Ken said with a wink and a smile.
Racing veteran and official pace pilot, Jim Booth of Grass Valley was asked “what do the Dwelle’s have in store for race fans today?”
Booth, an active member of the AT-6 Class contest committee is responsible for qualifying pilots for racing (at a special pylon racing school held in June) for fitness and safety as well as overseeing technical inspections on individual airplanes to insure strict compliance with class rules.
“The airplanes are mandated to remain stock with only minimal airframe modifications,” Booth said.
While describing the high level of expertise and commitment of the pilots in his charge and his duties, which include leading the start of each race in his own AT-6, Booth would only add, “they (the Dwelles) keep their preparations pretty secret.”
What is known is that the entire Dwelle family has been prominent in air racing for 19 years with Tom Sr. capturing two consecutive AT-6 gold championships in “Tinkertoy” as well as numerous gold victories in the unlimited class with his modified Hawker Sea Fury “Critical Mass.”
Sons Ken and Tom Jr. have raced in three family owned AT-6s with Tom’s wife Peggy, a veteran of the Biplane Class. Their combined expertise and reputation for competitiveness has consistently raised the level of excitement in the sport with Ken placing fifth in the Gold category and Tom Sr., a first place victory in the Silver during last year’s races.
Ken’s qualifying run Monday placed him in the number two position out of a field of 22 planes at 239.2 mph in “Tinkertoy”, nearly 5 mph faster than Buehn’s gold victory speeds of last year. In addition, Ken was timed with unofficial lap speeds of 249 mph before going on the clock.
With all of the “quiet” anticipation and expectations running high for the Dwelle team, tune into these pages next week for the exciting results. Or better yet, take the two-hour drive to Reno and watch it unfold during Sunday’s championship race.
The 45th annual Reno National Championship Air Races and Show will be held Thursday through Sunday, September 11-14 at the Stead Airport located 10 miles north of Reno Nevada. Six classes of racing aircraft include Unlimited, Sport, AT-6, Formula One, Biplane, and Jet.
The U.S Air Force Thunderbirds will augment top aerobatic performers and scores of aircraft fly-bys and displays of modern front-line military aircraft including rare appearances of the new F-22 Raptor jet fighter. General and reserved seating tickets can be purchased at the gate.
For more information, visit http://www.airrace.org.
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