RENO (Sept. 17) – Air Races came to the skies above the Stead Airport this week. For all concerned it was a challenging week and for some a throw down to see just who was the best in their class.
As usual the Unlimited Gold race brings the week long meet to an end and this year the defending champion aircraft was flying in its final race for the current owner Bob Button. Playing spoiler was another champion racer owned by a many time champion Bill “Tiger” Destefani.
Before the gold race began there was some excitement as the motor in Strega was a bit reluctant to even start. After several attempts it finally got going.
“The whole thing was exciting,” Jay Cansalvi said after winning the race. “That was an epic failure but we got it alive.”
Then turning his attention to the race he said, “Steve (Hinton) got the jump on me way back out there, I really wasn’t expecting that and he just pulled me down the chute and kept going. We were side-by-side when we were in formation then he left me, his tail was about my head the whole way down to Pylon 4. We just sat there, I tried to fly my line behind him, it was incredibly challenging passing the lap traffic, that was tough for both of us and I think the lap traffic, as challenging as it was, probably helped me a little bit.”
The Unlimiteds start in a shallow dive flying line abreast off a pace jet. When the pace pilot feels they are close enough he turns them loose and the field heads toward an alignment light positioned at Pylon 4.
Whoever reaches that pylon first is the leader and Voodoo just reached it ahead of Strega, which meant Steve Hinton was in the lead with Consalvi right with him.
Their first lap was made at a blazing 499.593, just short of the 500 mile an hour mark then it slowed to 485.4. Sometimes Strega would close then a small gap of almost a second would spread the two leaders apart only to close again.
Hinton flew a tight, low line while Consalvi was higher but still keeping up with him. Any passing has to be on the outside.
It took only a few circuits before the leaders were lapping the slower planes.
Air Racing is really oval track racing but the turns are marked by pylons, telephone poles with painted drums on top of them. And like any oval track, getting past lap traffic can spell the difference between victory or second place.
Right as they approached the white flag there was a slower aircraft they needed to get around. Hinton had to adjust his low line while Consalvi had clear sailing and took the point.
“That got him off his line slightly, allowed me to fly my line, there were a couple of times I could fly a little tighter than he was,” Consalvi said.
The margin gave Strega enough breathing room to continue the final lap and win the Unlimited National Championship. This gives the team bragging rights for this next year.
After the race Consalvi gave special thanks to L.D. his crew chief as “he made this thing happen.” He also thanked plane owner Tiger Destefani, Jose and Mike for building an epic engine as well as his friends and family.
Usually the top three aircraft taxi to a position in front of the grandstands for interviews and later where fans can come down and talk with the pilots. Unfortunately for some reason Voodoo just parked on the ramp by its pit although third place Dreadnought did arrive in the victory area.
During the celebration owner Tiger Destefani was asked about next year and this victory.
“That’s a long ways away and if Button quits why would I come?” he said. “As you readily saw them boys gave us a race.”
During the race Dreadnought flew a steady race but was lapped at the end although Joel Swager finished third and being lapped did come as a surprise.
At the victory celebration he said, “It’s actually my second time in the Gold race, last year it was Argonaut got fifth and this year third. It’s really smooth and comfortable as long as we don’t try to get behind the Mustangs on the start, we don’t get rocked by anybody, passed a couple of people but not all of them.”
Then after being asked about being lapped on the final lap the described it, “looked over and saw a shadow which I wasn’t expecting and I realized it was a Mustang shadow. It was two shadows and they passed me right at the end of the last lap.”
Then he thanked the Sanders family for giving him the opportunity as well as everyone at Chino at the museum that gave him an opportunity as well.
The Silver Unlimited winner was Robbie Patterson flying a F-51 while the Bronze race featured two vintage fighters that pulled off a one-two.
Winning the Bronze was Michael Pfleger flying a Grumman FM-3 Wildcat named Martlet, which was the front line fighter for the Navy when WW II began. Not far behind in second as Bernie Vasquez in a P-40E that looked like those used by the Flying Tigers and is named Texas Warhawk.
The closest race of the day was the T-6 Gold. It had been Nick Macy’s week and he was trying to earn a seventh championship and going into the day it appeared he just might do that.
When pace plane pilot released the field from their air start Macy took with John Lohmar right on his tail. Lap after lap they were very close together with one trying to take the best line and the other trying to outguess him.
Macy had the advantage after the Home Pylon until they headed toward the Valley of Speed. Then Lohmar would kind of get ahead but not far enough to slip into the lower and tighter line.
Finally toward the end they were pretty well side-by-side. Finally Lohmar was able to hold a slight advantage of just a few feet and snatched the victory at the finish line.
Back in the pits Lohmar, who was told the winning margin was 6/100ths of a second, said, “It was close the whole time, Nick is a great competitor and he wouldn’t give me an inch. He had the inside lane, flew a nice tight, clean line, which was great because it was predictable. I knew where he was going to be all the time, that’s what makes it safe when we’re out there neck and neck with each other.
“And I was able to pass him a little bit on the straightaways every time but not far enough to pull in front of him and take the lead. I thought my game plane was to just take it easy, work with him and pass him on that last straightaway going into Home Pylon. That’s exactly what we did and got him by about a fourth of an airplane length.”
Then he explained what he saw as they passed the home pylon at the checkered flag.
“My eyeballs were about at the front of his cowling,” he said. “That was the difference as we went by home pylon.”
Then he thanked long time sponsor Rod Hightower, Tempest Spark Plugs, Tulsa Engines, Wings West Governors, his team because one can’t do this by them selves. He also offered special thanks to crew chief as well as his wife and pit boss Hessha Lohmar.
The T-6 Class also has a special “drag race,” where two aircraft start on the ground and do one lap around a course. At the end of eliminations, that are spread over three days, six time class champion Dennis Buehn won the final drag race.
The fastest class are the jets and Mike Steiger not only set fast time in qualifying but flew to victory with an average speed of 494.210 mph.
When the gold race began it appeared that Zachary McNeill in Stealth, a British Vampire jet just might play spoiler. But that didn’t happen as David Culier took over second but he made a mistake.
If a racer cuts inside a pylon they are given a time penalty so Culier was dropped to third at the finish, which put the Vampire into second.
There are Pylon Judges at each one and they check to make sure a pilot is flying high enough and not cutting inside of them. If either happens they report this to race control
Pete Stavrides was the Silver Jet winner while the Bronze winner was Robert McCormack.
Fastest growing class is the Sport division. The racers are kit built aircraft and have speeds close to the slowest Unlimiteds.
And there were so many of them there was a Medallion race for the slowest qualifiers.
Jeff LaVelle began the week by setting the fast time then flew to victory in the Gold race. Winning the Silver race was Alan Crawford while one of the sport class fathers Rick Vandam was the Bronze winner.
The Medallion sport race didn’t go as planned. During the event two aircraft had contact damaging both but their pilots were able to quickly and safely land.
However they blocked one of the runways so the race was black-flagged and everyone is classed as “Did Not Finish.” This might be a first in the 54-year history of the event.
Unlimiteds, Jets, T-6 and Sport classes all use an air start but International Formula One and Biplanes use a ground start, which is what the earliest air races used in the past. The aircraft are lined up either three or two in a row and when the green flag is dropped everyone gets going.
International Formula One is made up of home built aircraft and despite their small motors go faster than Indy Cars.
When their Gold race began Sunday morning sitting on the pole was fast qualifier Lowell Slatter with Vito Wypraechtiger in the middle and Philip Goforth in the outside position. On the start Goforth got the jump with Slatter close behind them.
By the first Pylon the leader was Slatter but behind the top three was many time champion Steve Senegal and he was just starting his charge.
At the end of the 8-lap race Slatter took the checkered about two seconds ahead of Senegal.
Asked about the race Slatter said, “I was not first, was second to Pylon One as the guy on the outside “Knotty Girl,” is a really fast starter. I fully expected to not be first by Pylon One but was surprised to beat #50 “Scarlet Screamer,” as I have not beat him there all week. He was a bit faster or I was a bit slower on the start but it was pleasant not to have to pass two airplanes to get to the front.
“I held the lead through the whole race but I’ve been told it was pretty close. There was a red airplane (Senegal) on my tail the whole way around. Good that he didn’t pass me, it was a great run.”
Then he thanked his crew and Judy Galloway, “she is the owner of the airplane, lets me fly it and race it occasionally when I ask her to.”
Slatter expressed appreciation of crew chief Mike Morrissey, longtime supporters Mike Schaney and Robert Kircher as well as family that support the crew.
David Holmgren was the Silver Formula One winner while the Bronze victor was Justin Pillipson.
There were only two races in the Biplane class and Andrew Buehler was in seat replacing many time champion and owner Tom Aberle. Once the Gold race got started Buehler was on the throttle and “Phantom,” left everyone in its wake.
“It was pretty good, actually it was a little bumpier out there than it has been in the past, right by home pylon I did some bumping up and down right there,” he said. “Being there is really thanks to Tom Aberle and his crew as well as the crew he was using before. They came up with me and did a great job so I have to give kudos to them as well.”
Jeffrey Lo in “Miss Diane,” was the Silver winner.
The speeds between these two classes around the their courses, which are slightly different, are pretty close. The winning Formula One racer had an average speed of 242.104 miles an hour while the winning Biplane posted an average of 226.725.
In addition to the races fans could enjoy a display area full of military aircraft including a C-17 from the Hawaiian Air National Guard. There were also F-15’s from Oregon, A-10s from Idaho, helicopters from the Nevada Army National Guard and F-18’s from Fallon Naval Air Stations.
Over the field a U-2 did a fly over while on Sunday a B-2 Bomber did the same thing. Also there were displays by a Marine Corps Harrier and an Air Force Heritage flight featuring a P-38 and A-10 Wart Hog.
Featured guests were several war birds from the Texas Flying Legends museum and two of their aircraft even raced. The museum show included a B-25 bomber and used a bunch of Pyrotechnics to simulate bombing and straffing missions.
In fact Saturday’s show ended with a small brush fire so local fighter fighters got to put on a show of their own. Something they’ve done a lot of this summer.
Now Stead Airport is peaceful as it returns to being a general aviation hub along with a place where fire bombers can reload if there is the brush fire near by.
But next year from September 12 to 16 the skies will echo with the sound and fury as the National Championship Air Races return for its 55th anniversary. Those wishing further information about the event or to see all the results should go to the air race website, www.airrace.org.
REPORTER’S NOTE: There is a photo gallery after the results.
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National Championship Air Races – Sept. 17
+ Gold (8-Laps): 1. James “Jay” Consalvi, “Strega”, 7:49:774, 481.340 mph, 2. Steve Hinton, “Voodoo”, 7:50:356, 480.744 mph, 3. Joel Swager, “Dreadnought”, 7:50:847, 419.760 mph, 4. Curt Brown, “Sawbones”, 5. Sherman Smoot, “Argonaut”, 6. Mark Watt, “924”, 7. Graeme Frew, “Full Noise”.
+ Silver (7-Laps): 1. Robbie Patterson, F-51D, 9:45:938, 337.310, 2. John Maloney, “Spam Can’, 3. John Muszala II, “Shanty Irish”, 4. Dan Vance, “Speedball Alice”, 5. Brant Seghetti, “Sparks/Blondie”, 6. Tom Nightingale, “Bunny.”
+ Bronze (6-Laps):1. Alan Miller, “Little Horse,” 2. Michael Schiffer, “Whistling Death,” 3. Michael Pfleger, “Martlet, 4. Bernie Vasquez, “Texas Warhawk,” 5. Warren Pietsch, “Normandy Split.”
+ Gold (6-Laps): 1. Mike Steiger, “American Spirit”, 5:42.292, 494.210, 2. Zachary McNeill, “Stealth”, 3. David Culler, “American Patroit”, 4. Scott Farnsworth, “Dash Force One”, 5. Pete Stavrides, “Riff Raff”, 6. Vicky Benzing, “Darkstar II”, 7. Lachian Onslow, “Drop Bear”.
DQ: Robert McCormack.
+Silver (6-Laps): 1. Pete Stavrides, “Riff Raff”, 469.144, 2. Robert McCormack, “Soko O’no,” 3. Lachian Onslow, “Drop Bear,” 4. Nathan Harnagel, “Reality Czech,” 5. Jeff Turney, “Robin 1,” 6. James Beyer, “Starship.”
DQ: Charlie, Camilleri.
+Bronze (6-Laps): 1. Robert McCormack, “Wildest Dreams,” 451.547, 2. Zachary McNeill, “Invictus,” 3. James Beyer, “Starship,” 4. Charlie Camilleri, “Miss Independence,” 5. Larry Labriola, “Sarance, 6. Joe Gano, “Sluggo.”
+ Gold (6-Laps): 1. John Lohmar, “Radial Velocity,” 225.470, 2. Nick Macy, “Six Cat,” 225.434, 3. Dennis Buehn, “Midnight Miss III,” 4. Gene McNeely, “Baby Boomer,” 5. Greg McNeely, “Undecided.”
+ Silver (7-Laps): 1. Vic McMann, “Gunslinger,” 221.387, 2. Eric Woelbing, “Miss TNT,” 3. Chris LeFave, “Bare Essentials,” 4. Vitaly Pecherskvy, “Abracadabra,” 5. Gene McNeely, “Baby Boomer.”
+ Bronze (6-Laps): 1. Ralph Rina, “Rina,” 194.452, 2. Michael Pfleger, “Midnight Madness,” 3. Lee Oman “Eros,” 4. Scott Mike, “Miss Kathy,” 5. Thomas Vaughn, “Ole 58,” 6. William Muszala, “Miss Ellaneous.”
+ Gold (6-Laps): Jeff LaVelle, Super Glasair III, 388.313, 2. Vicky Benzing, “Lucky Too,” 3. Dave Sterling, Lancair Super Legacy, 4. Bob Mills, “Mojo,” 5. Peter Balmer, “Swiss Thunder,” 6. Mathias Haid, “Class Thunder I,” 7. Vince Walker, “Modo Mio,” 8. Robinson David, “Desert Lighting.”
DNF: Andrew Findlay.
+ Silver (6-Laps): 1. Alan Crawford, “Beast,” 287.514, 2. Ernie Sutter, “Jus Pass’n Thru,” 3. Chiwami Takagi-Read, “Sky Pirate,” 4. Dave Morss, “Martin’s Legacy,” 5. Sean Van hatten, “Seastar,” 6. Pete Zaccaginino “Coming in Hot,” 7. Ben Fouts, “The Goose,” 8. Tom McNerney, “Unleashed,” 9. Kirk Murphy, “Papa’s Ride.”
+ Bronze (8-Laps) : 1. Rick Vandam, “Greenstreak,” 244.418, 2. Eric Hansen, “Ruby’s Throne,” 3. Scott Gusakov, “Tumbling Goose,” 4. James Stringer, “Rocket Six,” 5. Louis Gabriel, “Blind Luck,” 6. Scott Prewitt, “Phantom Rocket,” 7. Neil Wischer, “Triple Eight.”
DNF: George Catalano.
DNS: Lee Ulrich
+Medallion* (8-Laps): 1. Mark Frederickson, “Tenacity,” 2. Chris Schaich, “Calamity Jane,” 3. Brett Schuck, “Rat Rod,” 4. Skylor Piper, “Miss Ruby S,” 5. Stephen Christopher, “Margarital,” 6. Matt Beaubien, “Low Motion,” 7. George Ford, “Ice Hawk,” 8. Robert Swortzel, RV-8, 9. Mark Ter Keurs, “La Otra.”
* – The race was black flagged due to a mid-air so everyone is classed as DNF and the race shortened.
International Formula One:
+ Gold (8-Laps): 1. Lowell Slatter, “Fraed Naught,” 242.104, 2. Steve Senegal, “Endeavor,” 3. Vito Wypraechtiger, “Scarlet Screamer,” 4. Philip Goforth, “Knotty Girl,” 5. Tim Cone, “What Airplane Honey,” 6. Lionel Vincent Mougel, “Hysteria,” 7. Ross Killin, “The Kraken,” 8. Steve Temple, “Quadnickel.”
+ Silver (8-Laps): 1.Davie Holmgren, “AeroMagic,” 213. 707, 2. Swald Rhan, “Heat Stroke,” 3. Ryszard Zadow, “Last Lap Player,” 4. Paul Newman, “Fast and Easy,” 5. Scott Holmes, “Outlaw,” 6. Kent Jackson, “Once More,” 7. Phillp Goforth, “Sonic Zoom.”
DNF: Jerry Marshall.
+ Bronze (8-Laps): 1. Justin Phillipson, “No Strings Attached,” 221.144, 2. Joseph Clark, “Tigger,” 3. Jason Barksdale, “Tony the Tiger,” 4. Steve Tumlin, “Fiesty,” 5. Phillp Goforth, “Sonic Zoom,” 6. Scott Homes, “Outlaw,” 7. Kent Jackson, “Once More,” 8. Paul Newman, “Fast and Easy.”
+ Gold (6-Laps): 1. Andrew Buehler, “Phantom,” 226.725, 2. Jake Stewart, “Bad Mojo,” 3. Eric Zine, “Yellow Fever,” 4. Michael Stewart, “Trouble Maker,” 5. Jeff Rose, “There Be Dragons,” 6. Tony Higa, “Panther.”
DNF: Sam Swift.
+ Silver (6-Laps): 1. Jeffrey Lo, “Miss Diane,” 180.330, 2. Casey Erickson, “The Batplane,” 3. Andrew Buehler, “Mistress,” 4. Scott Thomson, “Miss Oyl.”
DQ: Anthony Oshinguga.