View Full Version : Could Sport Class Racers Replace Unlimited?

05-15-2002, 01:13 AM
Ok, here's the question.. With some really HOT entries into the sport class already flying and nearing completion... and speeds of same already exceeding that of some of the Unlimited class airplanes....

In your humble opinions.. could this class ever "replace" the Unlimiteds?

05-15-2002, 04:50 AM
imho these classes should cohabit the same way as the greve and thompson trophies did in the '30s.

05-15-2002, 07:54 AM
But I think there is room for both in the hearts of race fans. Its a different sport to me. Unlimited has old war birds, and a lot of things that go along with the ride. I dont think you could replace that.


05-15-2002, 10:57 AM
The whole sound of the race is different. the sport class cant load a V12 in the nose.
The sound of a pair of griffens or merlins is awsome at race power.
But they (sport Class) will be faster and handle the course in the not to future.

05-15-2002, 11:13 AM
Just so you guys know how I personally feel.. I don't think *anything* can replace the airplanes that we all love to hear.. I get chills whenever any of those old big engines start up..

What prompted my idea for the poll was a blurb that runs about 12 or more times a day on Discovery Wings.. In it they have Jon Sharp featured with Nemesis, then go on to explain how he retired the airplane and was coming back with NemesisNXT.. (the blurb is about a year old from the info in it) They then go on to sort of speculate, saying that some think that this class will replace the Unlimiteds..

We all know, this will never happen. They may get faster than the Unlimiteds.. which would be terribly exciting and good for general aviation and would also follow along with the tradition of racing anything improving the day to day use of that anything (except lawn mowers)

GA airplanes are already much better than they were a few years ago. If you can afford one, you can cruise at pretty high numbers, both in altitude and speed with a private airplane now.. Imagine if that mark raises!

At any rate.. I suspected that the vote would be totally in the NO category... just wanted to spark some debate on the subject after hearing that blurb on DW for about the 400th time :rolleyes:

Hey.. they have a rerun of the "Carrier - Fortress At Sea" that I've only seen three times.. gotta run catch it again!


05-15-2002, 02:42 PM
Wayne,you ststed it well....we will never replace the unlimiteds...
even if they were all purpose built "specials" ((like Tsunami)

...I do think we will be seeing some very exciting "Sports" races in the next few years...I for one get chills hearing the engines and prop noise even from the T-6s !....

...."ain't no such thing as a Bad race"....('cept the one ya miss!)

Great work you guys,that Bear moves quick for a big guy!

05-15-2002, 04:15 PM
i agree with 52 eme's idea, they will eventually mesh together.

steve, remember that thunder mustangs have v12's, i like to wonder about a batten (now atlas) v12 - remember bear's interview with eric ahlstrom on the "dart" - of 1002 cu. in.'s, this's a good 400 more than the falconer and would be the equivalent of adding a griffon to a mustang, i believe the plane could hold the weight and would have a TREMENDOUS hp advantage over most of the field.

05-15-2002, 04:43 PM
Well, I voted no but with a caveat. The Warbirds will never be "replaced"...they are just too cool.

But. as the Warbird-based airframes/engines are attrited away either due to age, conversion back to stock for museums or crashing (God forbid) then eventually they will have to be replaced.

I may be wrong but there are only so many overhauls you can do on a Wright/Pratt/Rolls, right? (Motorheads... help me out) How many war surplus engines are out there anyway?

Unless the airframes are modified to take turbines (sacrilege) then, eventually, they will have to be retired, too.

It'll be interesting to see if the Sport Class planes will ever get to 500mph.

05-15-2002, 10:49 PM
The question isn't IF the sport class will replace the Unlimited, rather: When???

I love the Unlimited as much as the next person, but let’s face it--they are a dying breed. Back in the late 50’s you could by a surplus warbird for less than a car—or at least not much more than one. This made racing VERY affordable and accessible.

However, today- the unlimiteds are MUCH too expensive to draw fresh metal into the sport. With the planes themselves becoming so rare, most collectors are mothballing them rather than even flying them to local fly-ins or shows—much less race them at 50 ft off the sage brush and sand.

You will likely never see another P-38 fly the pylons, much less a P-39 or such. The field will unfortunately continue to dwindle as more and more warbirds become dust collectors in Museums.

Yes, the sport class IS the future of air racing. I will miss the big motor bird terribly though—so I will enjoy them as much as I can in the mean time.


05-15-2002, 11:57 PM
Originally posted by hattend
It'll be interesting to see if the Sport Class planes will ever get to 500mph. This is a mark that almost makes me shudder at times. When we spoke with "Kerch" back in '97 http://www.aafo.com/racing/people/kerch.htm it really seemed as though he thought that we should be slowing down rather than going faster.. Which made it all the more interesting to see him behind the effort to shoot for 500 at R2K..

As spectators, we're not going to be able to tell much (if any) difference between 480 and 500 for a lap speed.. What the airframe and pilot are seeing are a completely different world in that extra 20mph..

As much as I like records and balls out competition.. I'm not sure I want to see *anyone* going that fast on the course at Reno....


05-16-2002, 08:15 AM
I have to agree with Kraz.

Economics, and a finite, yet decreasing, supply of big iron, and the parts to keep them flying will provide the ultimate answer.

I don't like that answer, though. I love seeing and hearing any sort of warbird!

Can a buzzing group of composite lawn darts replace them? I dunno....certainly not in sound and "presence"; but maybe in speed. Will it be the same.......I don't think so.

On the positive side, I recall a similar question being raised in the late sixties / early seventies. Thirty years later, the Unlimiteds feld is as strong and vital as ever.

05-16-2002, 09:38 AM
As the course at Reno gets tighter due to encroachment they'll have to go slower. Physics sucks.

The 500mph I mentioned is straightline, not course speed. I guess if you hang a big enough engine on a Lancaire it'll go that fast.

I love this thread... I think it's been a discussion with my friends for 2 decades. "What will take the place of Warbirds?" "Will people still go if the Unlimited speeds drop down into the 300s again?" "Will Reno have to be moved?"

05-16-2002, 10:02 AM
I love the thunder mustang, cutest damn thing in the air and it does have a different sound to even the sports class.
I love this industry it hasn't standardized itself yet, problably never will.
from some of the things I have seen on the modeling sites aviation has a lot paths to still take.

Keith Doyne
05-16-2002, 10:10 AM
I hate to say it, but Kraz is right. The expense own a warbird is huge, let alone the expense to race it. However, air racing is getting more expensive for all of the classes. What is the cost to field a competitive sport class racer? My guess is $250,000(+). When you consider the cost of the kit, engine, instruments, radios, etc. Air racing is one of those sports where the competitors (and their families) want to be there, even if they don't make money on it. In Pennyslvania, I see the same thing with the dirt track racers. They love to compete, race, and they realize there is no real money to be made. However, they keep coming back year after year. There is just something about the sights and sounds of air racing that keeps me a fan.

Keith Doyne

P.S.: Yes, there are air racing fans east of the Mississippi :D

05-16-2002, 07:39 PM
You're right about the dirt track racin' analagy, Keith. There are cars there every Saturday night, occasionally smack it up, sometimes really badly, and be back the next weekend - and you know the repairs come out of the grocery money. The local track used to do a roll-over fund, and that would help, but would never cover much of the cost. Full moon nights are the worst.....more accidents and red lights than the norm. This is a consistent trend I have noticed over a lot of years......

But, bottom line, racing is expensive - even at the grass roots level, and goes up from there!!!

$1000 to re-barrel a single cylinder - sheeeesh! - and like as not, there are 17 more in line behind it......

05-16-2002, 08:40 PM
>>there are 17 more in line behind it......

17? I'm sure Rogers and there Furias crew could share shome "colorful" words about the **27** more cylinders behind number one!

Let see, 2 spark plugs per hole at $6 each-- heck, I couldn't even aford the daily spark plug changeout!


Eric Ahlstrom
05-17-2002, 01:23 AM
Where it will REALLY go is a meeting of the worlds. Given that the warbirds that are heavily involved with the Unlimited class now will continue and that Sport Class racers will continue to evolve, I see a different paradygm rising:

The 400+ mph Sport Class racer bumping up to higher displacement and going for 500+ mph in the Unlimited catagory.

Remember that the Sport Class is limited to only 650 ci, and realize that any Sport Class type that can push this displacement limit can go beyond it and you have the formula for the future.

Warbirds will always exist as Unlimiteds, the future winners will combine power, technology, and smaller size in new designs to go faster than ever before.

To those who protest that this will somehow undermine the integrety of the Ulimited Class, I say that to go that fast (500+ mph lap speeds) will take more power, create more noise, and be more exciting than you would ever believe.

I look forward to it.

05-17-2002, 07:12 AM
hehe eric, it will certainly be interesting.

how's the progress on the dart coming man?

i saw the lump of wire you and and don removed from the bear, big

06-28-2004, 04:34 PM
Maybe some day a long time in the future some of the fast ones might be flying in the lower class of unlimiteds but not in the top and not in the near future.

06-28-2004, 06:30 PM
unlimiteds are not exclusively warbirds.

(though warbirds are favored by fans,owners and pilots for now)

.....there will be some evolution to follow.....

....sport class racers (given the rules) will not be in among the "hot dogs" in unlimiteds.....

BUT.......it is more than possible to build an unlimited from designs
evolved from (or close to) the sports class planes.....

....if and when the market demand is there,someone will reproduce parts
to continue with rebuilding (maybe as far as complete new) merlins,
prats,and others.....the upper end of the economy shows well
(us poor folk don't own 'em just watch and work)
(Paul Allen just boosted Rutan's project into space.....)

will they produce "real" eangine parts....I donno.....
will we have exciting new unlimiteds.......you betcha!
will we miss the diminishing warbirds....you know it.

....but I'd bet a bologna sandwich that we will still be fans of air racing!

06-28-2004, 11:20 PM

"You will likely never see another P-38 fly the pylons, much less a P-39 or such. The field will unfortunately continue to dwindle as more and more warbirds become dust collectors in Museums."

Reno '04 will be my 30th-consecutive attendance & looking back over the years I feel compelled to disagree with this comment by Kraz. Much to my own amazement and delight, one thing I've learned regarding what types of Unlimited Class entrees show up to race is- NEVER SAY NEVER! When the RB-51 was destroyed at the climax of Reno'79, I truly felt we'd likely never see another Griffon-powered Mixmaster Unlimited - Mustang or other contra-rotating prop type big iron racer. Certainly way too exotic & 'spensive! Then guess what - along came not one but...Precious Metal (II)/World Jet & Miss Ashley II! (We might even be surprised to see the very rare & beautiful POF Mixmaster Spit or the even more gorgeous & radical Mixmaster Seafire show up one day as a new entry with its' pilot having a ball flying in the Bronze!) Way back- we didn't think we'd see any razorback mustangs racing, and shortly after we were blessed & thrilled by both an A & B Model. Arrived too late at Reno '76 to see Dave Forbes qualify the Tigercat & never figured we'd see one race & looks like Big Bossman is here for real! Never thought I'd see another Wildcat race after Reno '76 then came Pardue & last year Tom Camp raced one. Several times Lefty & White Lightnin' were retiring, and then came back again & again. P-38, P-39 & P-63s...been awhile, but never say never. Lefty raced a P-47...figured I'd missed that one, then we almost got to see MoF's Jug race not too long ago. Waitin' for a Spit to bend the pylons at Reno (Thank god for PHX-500 for Spit 'n Jug, huh?!) Saw a Hispano HA-1112 qualify...(THX Bubba!) Just when you think you've seen the last ultra-exotic high-mod or custom-built Unlimited, along comes another one out of the blue! Kinda sad to read about fans complaining the Unlimited ranks are the 'same old bunch' or getting thinner in depth. Still looks pretty good to me- when you can still see the likes of oldy goldies like Rare Bear, Dago, Precious Metal Mixmaster, Miss A, etc. still battling with corncob Sea Furies, and bluebloods mixing with eager & endowed new bloods like Mike Brown & his super September Fury. OK - so this year we won't have those other hot rods on hand, but they're still waiting in the wings and many will return for another round or two of competition. It's gonna be AWHILE before all the warbird Unlimited racers go extinct on us, folks, so relax & enjoy it! As expensive as they are to operate & maintain - there still appears to be a sufficient pool of well-heeled pilot/owners to field these heavy metal thoroughbreds in pylon competition events. Tenuous World affairs impacting the global & domestic economies seems to be the biggest threat to Unlimited air racing from what we've recently experienced.

And no- the Sport Class WON'T replace the Unlimiteds, in my humble opinion - but they have certainly come into their own as an exciting air racing class with a special style of excitement all their own. These guys really ROCK! (& have tons of fun too). They've got alot to offer participants & fans alike, and have big opportunities to promote growth within their fledgling class. Variety's the spice of life, as the cliche' goes and its' wonderful to have ALL the racing classes to savor & they deserve our appreciation and support for their hard efforts & sacrifice. Takes a whole lot to 'go fast & turn left' and finish! DBD

06-28-2004, 11:48 PM
I imagine someday real warbirds will become too rare and valuable to race. I don't know about sport class, but a warbird-sized homebuilt like Murdo Cameron's replica p-51 might have to serve as a replacement.

Grand P-51

Of course, the rules would have to be altered to allow turboprops, as I can't see anyone spending the money to develop a modern Merlin-sized piston engine for the small market of racers and sport planes and boats that would use them. Said market is so tiny that the engines would have to cost a small fortune for the company developing them to make a profit.

There should be plenty of surplus turboprops around. I'd really miss the sound of the big recips, but those classic motors can't keep running forever. I hope they survive until my time in this world is up. I don't want to see the old iron go.

06-29-2004, 05:59 AM
I heard that one guy was gonna buy the jigs for making mustangs, but his lawyer pulled him in and possibly said.."too much liability in being an aircraft manufacturer of airplanes" :jail:

Too bad for that, or we might see more of them running as I am sure an engine manufacturer would have stepped up to the plate. Could you imagine seeing 20-30 of them being built a year...

I guess unlimited's would have been good to go for a long while if that happened. :thumbsup:

06-29-2004, 09:06 AM
I'm sure that Darryl Greenamyer knows what has to be done to get 400 mph out of his Lancair. You can probably bet that he will come to Reno this year trying to get to that mark or close to it. Don't count him out of first place--even with Nemises NXT coming.

Do any of you remember listening to Greenamyer last year during qualifications week as he test flew his airplane and was doing the high big circles around the field--what a sound for a horizontal opposed, six cylinder engine--it sounded great! No it didn't or will it ever replace the sound of an unlimited engine--but it sounded great. Being a die-hard unlimited fan, it's hard to see them slowly fading away, but I still go to Reno to see speed and if unlimited racing is to survive, I'm afraid that we'll have to start loving the sounds of smaller engines howling--and that's exactly what Greenamyer's engine was doing.

06-29-2004, 04:29 PM
As far as engines go the old merlin and radials have a lot of power but their design is over 50 years old. If an engine of that same size were made today it would be a lot more powerful, lighter and more reliable. The design would also be a lot simpler. Maybe in the future when Air racing is more popular and and there is a lot of money involved it will happen.

06-29-2004, 09:20 PM
While it is a fact that any red blooded person gets tingles right down to his or her toes at the sight and sound of pencil noses and corn cobs and it is equally true that absolutely no one in thier right mind ever wants to see them go away, there is one outside influence that might eventually cause the demise of Unlimiteds and possibly even other "go fast" classes, at least at Reno. As a local resident and one who has participated in air racing in some capacity or another ever since the first race down at Bill Stead's Sky Ranch, I have watched local activities closely that affect the races here. Years ago RARA owned most of the land encompassing the various class race courses and the land outside the unlimited course was barren and virtually uninhabited. Now, part of that land has been sold to Washoe County Airport Athority who (nod nod wink wink) pledged undying support for the races. Add to that the inevitable incroachment of civilization with private homes now surrounding much of the Unlimited course perimiter. And finally- and this is the sneaky one- Washoe County and the city of Reno have been locked in a very nasty battle for some time as they scramble for land control. In the next few weeks, barring a last minute change, Reno will be annexing land that extends for several miles past Stead. It is all politics (pronounced greed) and I fear that this, rather than support for the sport or availability of parts, etc. that threatens the future of at least the Unlimiteds here at Reno.

06-29-2004, 10:54 PM
But they (sport Class) will be faster and handle the course in the not to(distant) future.

You're right Steve! I love the Sport Class. They WILL find the speed eventually like the WWII fighters did. I don't think they will ever have the high pitched "wang" of Strega #7 at the home pylon or the BETTER sound of Rare Bear's #77 growl.

However, I am not ready to pass the torch to the little guys!


We all ;) want to see Rare Bear beat both of the fastest Mustangs.

regards, Clay :beerchug:

06-30-2004, 05:06 AM

you stated:
"As far as engines go the old merlin and radials have a lot of power but their design is over 50 years old. If an engine of that same size were made today it would be a lot more powerful, lighter and more reliable."

.....after near 40 years in hands on builing and "re-engineering" of many different engines (automotive,aircraft,etc..) and researching all I have

I have found the engines built at or near the end of WWII quite well developed.

Look into engine development (from the "teens to the '60s)not much is "new"

1)...a lot more power....

not a "lot",but sure you could get a bit at a cost (massive failure)

2) lighter....these things are being used beyond their design limits by a wide margin now,in order to pack this in a lighter "lump" you would need
"Kryptonite"......you might be able to shave 1-2% off 'em,but then
have to add 12-18% to boost the strength of the internals.

3) reliability.....yep..modern materials might,just might help here.
modern metal processing and recent "super alloys " may help.
synthetic oils could go quite a ways (with internal changes to work with them) to prolong engine life/power output.

.......yes,you are right in many senses
.......no ,the "new stuff" isn't so new

..........the base factor I find is CUBIC DOLLARS......
to apply the incremental advances technology has given us would
take massive applications of money and time.

I'm thinking along the lines of General Motors or the Militay's budget
levels,with a return of a 2-3% gain in an obsolete technology.

.....(isn't progess wonderful?)

.....and yes my heart breaks at the concept of loosing our beloved warbirds.....( I still lament the turbine take-over in unlimited hydro racing).....

.....I suppose we all,each and evryone hold the responsability to help promote our love of this sport (and aircraft doings).

....share your excitement....talk it up with "outsiders.....bring a "newbie" to the races or airshow........we can keep our mutual love going.

06-30-2004, 09:17 AM
As spectators, we're not going to be able to tell much (if any) difference between 480 and 500 for a lap speed.. What the airframe and pilot are seeing are a completely different world in that extra 20mph..

I've said it before and I'll say it again...hands down the best race I EVER saw at Reno was a Silver Heat race in 1982 in the rain. I don't think they ever got above 380 mph...but I saw four Mustangs share the same airspace for six laps, and the leader was different each time around.

As good as the '91 final was......I'll take 100 mph slower if it means better racing.

07-01-2004, 02:30 PM
In the mid 90's, RARA approached some parties involved with IF-1 at the time to draft up a proposal for a "limited" homebuilt class. This was presented to RARA as the "International GT" class. The rules were based on an earlier concept dating from the late 1970's that had been shelved.

Rather than promoting true racing aircraft that have very little use other than pylon racing (such as a Formula One), the specifications were set up to encourage designs that had some degree of utility to them, such as 2 seats, X-country fuel capability, limited baggage space, an oxygen system, ability to wear a parachute, etc. An engine displacement limit was set at 600 ci. The idea was that new, high performance designs would be developed and use racing as the proving ground. The aircraft would hopefully be developed into kits later on.

The GT proposal was made to RARA in early 1995. Unfortunately, they elected to provide funding to the T-28 class (sigh), instead of introducing a new class that would undoubtedly experience growing pains. The current Sport class came along a few years later, taking advantage of the rise of NASCAR to promote the "Stock Cars of the Skies" concept, a ready-to-race fleet of existing aircraft, and a management change within RARA. As they say, timing is everything.

The Sport class has done a fine job of bringing GA manufacturers and existing kit designs into Air Racing, which benefits all of us. As far as replacing the Unlimiteds, this won't happen without encouraging new designs NOW, before the warbirds are gone. The 5 kit requirement keeps this from happening. There aren't many like Jon Sharp and the Nemesis team out there that have the capability of creating that kind of aircraft and sell 5 kits before the first flight. The GT proposal was an attempt to stimulate homebuilders to build high performance aircraft and bring them to Reno, race and showcase them, build up the interest and then hopefully develop and sell kits. With more proven high performance designs made feasable by the GT class, a future "Custom Built" unlimited class would have the foundation to start with.

07-03-2004, 05:51 AM
i think the the unlimited will become faster than ever.
Whit new engine tech a maby using a new engine types.
Maby they can use lamborghini v12 or something like that with superchargers or turbo's and electronic fuel injection.