What a beautiful day at Stead Air Field, perfect for qualifying and for photos. The wind picked up about 3:00 pm and the beautiful storybook clouds made for a picturesque close to a great first day of race qualifying for all classes.
I spoke with a few pilots and crew chiefs from the Sport, Biplane, Formula One, T-6 and Unlimited classes and all were pleased with their individual aircraft performance and most said they opened up the throttle to get a feel for how fast their finely tuned machines were running… and by the way, all reports positive, all running fast and clean!
Out in the pits area, the day closed with the sun setting over the hills and the planes in their stalls with what looked like their night caps on – ready for rest in preparation for the last day of qualifications on Wednesday.
Be sure to see the awesome new paint job for Riff Raff, Race #99. The sleek Hawker Sea Fury looks like (another) million bucks! I know we’ll all be anxious to see how she looks in the air and how she flies. Last year Pilot “Hoot” Gibson, (former Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander for Challenger and Columbia) had to sit that race year out.
No word on what was done to the engine from Owner Mike Keenum, however, I wonder if Hoot will be sporting a new matching flight suit?! We just have to wait and see on both accounts!
Here’s one to watch all you T-6 fans! In his third year of racing, the talented T-6 Pilot John Lohmar, Race #28, gives all the credit to his successful first two years of wins to his Crew Chief, Gary Unruh. In 2007, their first year of racing, Race #28, Radical Velocity took 1st place in the Bronze, and last year, moved to 1st place in the Silver race.
That year Tulsa Engines, Tulsa, OK, rebuilt the Pratt & Whitney radial engine and the improvements were evident. Because the engines are pretty much stock with little opportunity for modifications, Gary keeps the T-6 moving fast with a smooth exterior skin – lots of Bondo…
laps were recorded at about 1:22 minutes per lap or about 222 mph yesterday. That’s a huge speed increase from the original factory built T-6’s, they rolled off the floor with a top speed between 130 – 150 mph and about 2100 rpm’s. Today the air cooled engines race at around 2600 rpm’s, an increase that can cause oil temperature problems. The pilot has to keep a close eye on his gauges even though it’s a short 5.0693 mile race; they’re running that engine right on the edge, and that takes one very skilled crew chief to keep it performing at the top of its game.
The competition is on Gentlemen – you go Gary!
Good Luck and Godspeed!
Kimberley West, WarBirdBabe