The last bastion of unbridled, piston driven, high octane horsepower.
The National Air Races at Stead Field, near Reno, Nevada are one of the few remaining places in the world where the guiding principle is go fast...period. The Unlimited Class rules the roost when it comes to speed. The 2002 Unlimited Gold race was won with an average speed of 468 mph! There are only two rules in the class: The plane must be propeller driven and have a piston engine, that's it. No crap about parity (a la NAPCAR, oops, NASCAR), no misguided efforts to keep the cost down so everyone can race. (I'd like to thank the boneheads at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for ruining a truly American institution, The 500. Morons.) Reno is all about how fast you can go. You can't cheat as the two rules are impossible to break without being ridiculously obvious.

I decided I had to go see them for myself so in September 1997, off I went for the whole four day event. I bought a four day pit pass and showed up at the gate as soon as the grounds opened at 8 am to wander around. It is a wonderful place for a horsepower freak. The heady fragrance of high octane fuel lingers delicately in the crisp morning air. As the sun climbs higher the serenity of the morning is soon shattered by the throaty rumble of a Pratt & Whitney R-3350. This was heaven! I shot over 20 rolls of film in three days. What follows is a small sampling of the shots.

A day that starts with a view like this is gonna be a good one! Howard Pardue's Hawker Sea Fury ready to race. Oh, I'm light-headed already!
You can't just jump in, turn the key and race. The entire crew for each plane works like hell every day, all day to keep the plane ready. When you're thrashing 4000 horsepower out of an engine that was originally intended to generate 2200, it all has to be right. This is not the family minivan we're talking about here!
Miss Ashley II showing off some of her technology.
The Rare Bear gets a little TLC.
"Bad Attitude" Hawker Sea Fury
"Spirit of Texas" Sea Fury
"The Huntress" P-51D Mustang
Another waking P-51
"Furias" Sea Fury
Sea Fury, Wings folded
There weren't many people there at this hour of the morning so I had many unobstructed photo ops. The crew were already hard at work in preparation for the days heats. It was a great way to see the planes up close.
There's lots more to see, its early yet!
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