Pegasus flies into third
Record-setting speeds and attendance were on tap as the 39th Annual Reno National Championship Air Races and Show concluded its four-day run on Sunday.
One hundred twenty nine pilots from around the world competed in six classes of racing for a combined total of $800,000 in prize money.
In his fifth year of racing, Grass Valley resident Arnie Luters enjoyed a 3rd place victory in his race number 8 Pegasus during Sunday’s Sport Class silver championship after intense competition with Earl Hibler of Hayward. Both men flew Glassair IIIs while battling neck and neck for second place behind Will Mathews in No. 43, Moonshine. Hibler gained the upper hand by lapping a slower plane on the home stretch, while Luters was forced to go wide around a pylon. The added distance and identical performance of their planes meant that he couldn’t catch Hibler in the remaining two laps of the six-lap race.
“Since we have to pass on the outside, I couldn’t keep up with him by the time we reached the turn” Luters said, adding that he was not at all disappointed in the outcome.
After qualifying 13th out of 21 planes at 258.7 miles per hour, his speeds climbed in the heat races to 262.8 beating out his own 5th place victory achieved in 2000.
Dave Cronin of Truckee qualified his number 1 Glassair III in 16th position at 249.4 miles per hour went on to finish 6th in the Silver at 251.1 mph, and Darryl Greenameyer of San Diego captured the Sport Class Gold championship at 328.9 mph after setting an all-time course qualifying record of 347.7 mph. in his highly modified Lancair.
In the Unlimited Class, Lake Of The Pines resident Tom Dwelle and his spirited team felt they had every chance at bringing home the gold championship flying their radical Hawker Sea Fury, Critical Mass.
With a 4000 horsepower 3350 cubic-inch engine and a finely tuned airframe, Dwelle was confident in achieving lap speeds nearing 500 mph.
Their hopes were shattered however, when the plane was damaged after a high speed practice flight around the pylons prior to qualifying. As Dwelle was taxiing back to the pits, a hydraulic system failure caused the landing gear on his race number 10 to collapse, dropping the vintage racer to the ground and out of competition.
The large four-bladed propeller and engine absorbed the brunt of the impact. Dwelle and his team immediately began disassembling the plane to make repairs in preparation for Reno 2003.
“We’ll be back.,” he said.
Skip Holm of Calabasas won the Unlimited Gold trophy in Dago Red, a modified P-51 at 466.8 mph after establishing an all time qualifying speed record of 497.3 mph. A race record of 224.2 mph was also achieved by David Rose of La Jolla, CA in the Biplane Class during Sunday’s gold race.
The Reno Air Races are the longest running event of its kind in the world. Michael Houghton, president of Reno Air Racing Association estimated this year’s attendance was around 200,000, up from 180,000 last year.
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