Thursday, September 19, 2013

What I Saw Sunday

Sunday in The Valley Of Speed was the windiest day of the weekend. There was rain near sunset again Saturday, just like Friday evening, though not quite the gully washer intensity. Rain should settle the dust, smoke and haze, but the rain was minutes in duration not hours…

Sunday’s wind certainly raised plenty of dust…my tripod, set up as a monopod with only a single leg extended was too much of a sail when the wind gusted. I made only photos Sunday, it was just too windy to follow the race with a 432mm telephoto lens! Trust me many of the photos were shaky too!

I looked at the skies and mountains several times to see the ‘Autumnal Light’ that traditionally I notice for the first time every year at Reno/Stead Airfield. To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what I was looking at by Sunday.

A months-worth of Rim Fire smoke had blown away before I arrived, but isolated thunderstorms and their brief but powerful Outflow Winds kept the particulate counts high over the High Desert…waddya gonna do?  

I saw two good Unlimited races Sunday…

The Silver Race was almost stately compared to Saturday’s Gold Heat. Without Strega in the heat, the pace was…let’s say…graceful…

As the winds freshened Sunday afternoon, I began to fear a Gold Race cancellation for high winds. Fortunately there were no looming thunderheads…no chance of rain, and the wind was steady, not really that gusty.

Finally we heard the Racer’s Introductions over the radio…at last the planes took to the sky and formed up with the Pace Plane and flew out behind Peavine Mountain, to line up for the start.

Down The Chute they came…Voodoo on the Pole, and Strega bringing up the rear.

“Gentlemen, you have a race” crackled the radio and the throttles went forward.

Voodoo lead September Fury, followed by Czech Mate and Rare Bear. Strega was passing the backmarkers like they were standing still. Voodoo’s first lap was 504MPH and change.

Strega was flat out flying! By the fourth lap, September Fury May-Day-ed and landed safely. Strega passed eternal nemesis, Rare Bear, and blew by Czech Mate. She was 7-8 seconds behind Voodoo…

The two highly modified P-51s outclassed the rest of the field, my favorite, Precious Metal ran around in fourth, sounding like a million bucks.

That’s the way they finished. Kudos to Stephen Hinton in Voodoo who took his fourth Reno Gold in four years of racing! His first three wins were in Strega.

Had Strega qualified without drama, what a race that would have been!

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