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Thread: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

  1. #1
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    Default THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    Speaking again as a fan here so take nothing from this otherwise:

    I know there are plans in work for a few racers in this class for the coming years (Tsunami, etc.) and that's very cool. Some hope on the horizon and exciting to be sure!

    That said, and I don't wish to be a negative ninny here, but I don't believe it's lost on anyone that the future of the highly-modified UNL Gold class is in serious jeopardy of slipping into the history books.

    I'm certainly not as "long in the tooth" when it comes to all things AAFO and RARA as many folks on this forum. And I'm just guessing but suspect the top tenured folks here account for well over 200 years of experience in air racing, in the aggregate…likely more. There is NO substitute for that level of expertise, and I speak for myself and hopefully many others when I say...Thank You! Your knowledge and contributions are greatly appreciated!

    Curious if those who have been around a while have some recollection of the UNL class going through something like this drought in the past. And by drought, I'm referring to what I mentioned above...the Dago’s, Strega’s, VooDoo’s, Bear's, Precious’ of the world (or their historical equivalent) being MIA for a couple years and the apparent lack of any indication of their return any time soon. Strega and VooDoo last clashed in 2017 with a slim chance of that occurring in 2020. And you have to go back to 2013 to find at least three of those in the running on a Gold Sunday.

    This is NOT to cast aspersions upon ANY racer in the UNL class. God knows this sport owes a HUGE debt to anyone and everyone who chooses to field a UNL racer regardless of level and all those who toil just as hard to show up year in and year out. We all know who they are, and they are to be highly commended. That never gets old!

    I’m speaking of those who made the same choice years ago and took it a step further for whatever reason. Major race engine programs, major aerodynamic changes, as well as upgraded/concept changes to on-board systems. Major investments in not only engineering, time, effort, and energy but ever larger dollars as well. I’ll plead ignorance on exactly what it takes, but having been around motorsports most of my life, I have a fairly good understanding of the level of effort to compete, regardless of how fast. And the faster you want to go, the more “zeroes” are involved…exponentially so.

    Are the uber-deep pockets needed to build/rebuild that level of the UNL Gold class no longer interested or have no interest in joining? Yes, I understand that if it was “your” money how interested would you be in spending those hundreds of thousands (or millions) year after year to win prize money that may or may not even cover the cost of showing up. It’s not unlike the hundreds of volunteers who support the races every year…spending their precious vacation time and some serious coin solely for the love of the sport…just more numbers to the left of the decimal for the racers! There are numerous factors that contribute to that scenario. Not going to go down that rabbit hole except to say, I get it.

    Here’s a question I’d like to throw out there:

    If you had to bet an amount of money that made you very nervous, what do you think the UNL class will look like in say, 2023 (and yeah, I know…don’t go there):
    a) A return to 3-5 highly modified racers challenging for Gold at 480+mph
    b) A return to 1-2 highly modified racers who dominate the class and are certain to win Gold
    c) Last two years where a few modified and stock racers compete at or below 420MPH
    d) The class is now a “Demonstration” of a half-dozen or so stockers showcasing what the UNL class was in the past
    e) Something other or in between

    Hopefully this fosters some good discussion. That’s my intent.
    Last edited by Air Boss; 06-22-2020 at 10:10 AM.
    Owen Ashurst
    Performer Air Boss - Reno Air Races
    http://airbossone.com/

  2. #2
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    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    When a 'stock' Bearcat sells for $4milUS, or a 'stock D-model P-51 is $2 to 3milUS, I really don't think modified Unlimiteds have much of a future. Even though many of the airframes are, basically, just a number plate with a plane built around it, they command crazy money. To be honest, I'm thinking you'd need to have 'Bezos-class' money to give it a go! That being said, I whole-heartedly support the 'grass-roots' build-up of a race airframe. Admittedly, if you had 'Tiger-class' money, a half-million would buy a Yak-3U airplane to modify the buhjeebies out of and race it! Then, the near insurmountable search for a Gold-Class Crew Chief and stout-hearted Ground Crew steps up to slap you in the face! Two of the World Beating, Multi-Gold Winning Stars that immediately come to mind have...flown west! I realize there are many candidates that might just be up to the task, but, I have observed a lot more bluster than bravado... Bronze or Silver, NO...Go Gold or go home! jussayin'

    I do hold out a sliver of hope, but, the days of the 'Giants' have passed into oblivion...IMHO

    As each year passes, I truly believe the future of AirRacing has the Sport-Class as its pinnacle.
    Eddie's Airplane Patch-Birthplace of the "Sonic Boom".......and I'm reminded every friggin' day!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    Sorry, Owen...
    I think b) may be most likely...
    Eddie's Airplane Patch-Birthplace of the "Sonic Boom".......and I'm reminded every friggin' day!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    Quote Originally Posted by SpinB View Post
    Sorry, Owen...
    I think b) may be most likely...
    Oliver, good thoughts and exactly the kind of response I was looking for. Thank you for taking the time to craft a well-thoughtout response. Seems like that class of racing has several strikes against it at this time. It will be a challenge to overcome.

    BTW, I note you're a planespotter. Have you heard of BigJetTV? I joined a few months back. They do great job of live-streaming for all around the world (or used to!). The guys is a very funny Brit and loves what he does. Check it out...unless of course you're already a member!

    Wayne, apologies if the link is a no-no. Didn't see them as any competition but understand if it causes some heartburn.
    Owen Ashurst
    Performer Air Boss - Reno Air Races
    http://airbossone.com/

  5. #5
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    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    Good post Owen, I'll add my thoughts. Firstly, the last 3-plane "Super Gold" was 2015. 2015 was actually a really cool year with a competitive Bear winning it's first race in years.

    I think there are a few things to look at here. First, there is still interest in Unlimited racing. And I mean that as a whole. There are still at least a half dozen 450+ planes out there that are capable of winning Gold that have not been converted to stock, with more on the way (those being Tsunami, Redding race Yak, etc.) I also think there is interest in racing/fielding stock warbirds and I have ZERO issues with that. I don't think anyone was complaining to see Joe Thibodeau return in 2018. They were stockers, but it's a sign that people still want to come race warbirds.

    I think the future without ANY extra prize money is a pretty simple one... Until Reno is dead and gone, Dreadnought will always be there and that is currently setting the standard. We have ONE plane that is actively trying to beat Dreadnought. And we have Dusty's Yak which might be the next one to go for that goal. There will ALWAYS be planes racing that will try to catch Dreadnought, whether they be Sawbones that has maybe one or two small mods a year, or Miss A that comes with RRIII parts and a hot Shanholtzer engine. I am HOPING that this sort of mentality will sort of restart that drive to make faster Unlimiteds with more modern/safer technology. Do I see anyone making another Dago Red? No. BUT, I do see the potential for RRIII clones, the way that Miss A is somewhat headed. And if you were there for RRIII's Gold run, you will not have a problem with a few Super Stockers on the course in place of Strega, Voodoo, Dago, etc... The only thing with these is yes your Mustang is still a daily driver, but if you want it to be a Super Stocker it needs a hot engine $$$

    Personally, I think Yak's might be the future of Reno. They're cheap and pretty fast. Dusty has been trying to bring more and more to race. I can also see these taking on the role of RRIII Super Stockers and maybe even seeing some Allison race prep move forward more than it has in the past. I think the Allison powered Yak has some untapped potential that can make for a plane faster than Czech Mate.

    A full field of 25-30 Unlimiteds with Dreadnought as top qualifier is some INSANELY competitive racing I think we would all like to see. I don't have a problem with that.

    Back to the 500+ planes. There is no reason for any owner to bring their Unlimited to Reno right now. It's a waste of money and for what gain? Proving you are faster than Dreadnought is a waste of money. Now bring back Bear, Tiger might wanna show up, and Voodoo might be next. Then there's something to race for once again.

    Then there is Tsunami. I have every part of my body crossed that Tsunami gets finished because that is really what the Unlimited class needs to get the 500+ guys back if there is ZERO money added to the purse - competition. The class has never been about the money because these guys were there to prove their plane was the fastest. It's a lot different now.

    To your multiple choice question, it all depends. There needs to be one spark to start the fire and if nobody brings a fast Unlimited to Reno, nobody else is going to either. There lies the key questions... Will RARA ever produce a purse that generates a profit or even breakeven for the winner of Unlimited Gold? Will Bear return to race? Will Furias? Is PM really finished for good? When will Tsunami be done? The Redding Yak? Everything is in limbo, but all it takes is one spark to see what the class is going to become.
    *My Air Race Site*

    Reno from '99 to '19

  6. #6
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    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    Quote Originally Posted by GRNDP51 View Post
    Good post Owen, I'll add my thoughts. Firstly, the last 3-plane "Super Gold" was 2015. 2015 was actually a really cool year with a competitive Bear winning it's first race in years.

    I think there are a few things to look at here. First, there is still interest in Unlimited racing. And I mean that as a whole. There are still at least a half dozen 450+ planes out there that are capable of winning Gold that have not been converted to stock, with more on the way (those being Tsunami, Redding race Yak, etc.) I also think there is interest in racing/fielding stock warbirds and I have ZERO issues with that. I don't think anyone was complaining to see Joe Thibodeau return in 2018. They were stockers, but it's a sign that people still want to come race warbirds.

    I think the future without ANY extra prize money is a pretty simple one... Until Reno is dead and gone, Dreadnought will always be there and that is currently setting the standard. We have ONE plane that is actively trying to beat Dreadnought. And we have Dusty's Yak which might be the next one to go for that goal. There will ALWAYS be planes racing that will try to catch Dreadnought, whether they be Sawbones that has maybe one or two small mods a year, or Miss A that comes with RRIII parts and a hot Shanholtzer engine. I am HOPING that this sort of mentality will sort of restart that drive to make faster Unlimiteds with more modern/safer technology. Do I see anyone making another Dago Red? No. BUT, I do see the potential for RRIII clones, the way that Miss A is somewhat headed. And if you were there for RRIII's Gold run, you will not have a problem with a few Super Stockers on the course in place of Strega, Voodoo, Dago, etc... The only thing with these is yes your Mustang is still a daily driver, but if you want it to be a Super Stocker it needs a hot engine $$$

    Personally, I think Yak's might be the future of Reno. They're cheap and pretty fast. Dusty has been trying to bring more and more to race. I can also see these taking on the role of RRIII Super Stockers and maybe even seeing some Allison race prep move forward more than it has in the past. I think the Allison powered Yak has some untapped potential that can make for a plane faster than Czech Mate.

    A full field of 25-30 Unlimiteds with Dreadnought as top qualifier is some INSANELY competitive racing I think we would all like to see. I don't have a problem with that.

    Back to the 500+ planes. There is no reason for any owner to bring their Unlimited to Reno right now. It's a waste of money and for what gain? Proving you are faster than Dreadnought is a waste of money. Now bring back Bear, Tiger might wanna show up, and Voodoo might be next. Then there's something to race for once again.

    Then there is Tsunami. I have every part of my body crossed that Tsunami gets finished because that is really what the Unlimited class needs to get the 500+ guys back if there is ZERO money added to the purse - competition. The class has never been about the money because these guys were there to prove their plane was the fastest. It's a lot different now.

    To your multiple choice question, it all depends. There needs to be one spark to start the fire and if nobody brings a fast Unlimited to Reno, nobody else is going to either. There lies the key questions... Will RARA ever produce a purse that generates a profit or even breakeven for the winner of Unlimited Gold? Will Bear return to race? Will Furias? Is PM really finished for good? When will Tsunami be done? The Redding Yak? Everything is in limbo, but all it takes is one spark to see what the class is going to become.
    Thanks, "McStinky!" Yes, 2015. Guess I was referring to at least three of them finishing the Gold Race. VooDoo was a DNF, but then again, that's all part of racing.

    All good points about "The Dread" and their competition. Frankly, I'd be very happy to see some really competitive racing at that level. When you push man and machine...you get mayhem (and I mean that in a good way!).

    Here's hoping those who have the resources and in the inclination are likewise inspired.
    Owen Ashurst
    Performer Air Boss - Reno Air Races
    http://airbossone.com/

  7. #7
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    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    I'm not sure the class is doomed just yet. There are a few people who have racers who are waiting to see what happens with the class. There are others who are willing to spend a small fortune to ship their plane halfway around the world to run, without any real sponsorship to help cover the costs. Still others are taking their mostly stock looking aircraft and making them go faster than some of the big engined heavy metal. I agree with the Yaks potentially being the future since they are still under $1M (some for half that or less)

    The bigger issue that I see is pilot/owner age. There are no young guys stepping up to fill the shoes of the current older pilots/owners. Have there been a few younger guys who have raced in recent years? Sure, but not many. Some of the IF1 and Sport pilots need to find their way into the Unlimiteds. Philip Goforth wanted to race Czech Mate this year, but apparently that was a non starter since the owner isn't interested in racing the plane (But would love to sell it to someone. Tiger and Sherm were really pushing to get a current Yak owner to buy it last year.) We have seen a start to the changing of the guard with Joel winning in Dreadnought a couple years ago. Stevo, Jay, are both fantastic behind the stick. Bernie Vasquez flew the heck out of the P-40 and John Muszala looked really good in Shanty Irish. I'd bet Bernie and John would jump at the chance to race again, they just need a plane and financial backing to make it happen. Stevo seems like he is enjoying not racing for now, and Jay might have been a simple one and done, been there, done that twice, don't need to do it again. I do know that John Bjornstad is really looking forward to climbing into the seat of Tsunami and riding the wave around the course. There are a few younger guys, but not nearly enough to fill the field.

    I think a telling sign of the future will be what happens when Rare Bear comes back. With the Bear back, that gives Strega someone to race against. I'd bet we see Stevo in Strega again, and we have a pair of 480+ racers on the course once more. Tsunami will be along, the Redding Yak perhaps as well. We have Dago sitting in the hangar treading water, Furias is being poked at from time to time as well. There will always be a competition to be the fastest one around the course. With the Bear back on the board, there is someone to beat. (The question is, who will be at the stick of the Bear?)

    In terms of finding crew chiefs, there are guys out there who can likely do the job pretty well as they learned from the best, and have lead a gallant effort to win in the past. Yes the sport has lost Dave Cornell and Kerch, they were two of the best. There are people who learned from both, who could perhaps be nearly as good if given the chance.

    I can see the Super Stock racers being more common in the future. Miss A and Miss Van Nuys being two possible candidates . No, its not as simple as building a hot engine and dropping it in initially, but once the uprated cooling and ADI systems are in place, its a lot easier to do.

    There are many factors that will dictate the future of the unlimited class. Money drives many of them, but money is out there. The trick is getting the $ interested in the sport and willing to go big or go home. The drive to win and compete is there, be it PSAM in the King Cobra out there turning laps and looking good doing it, or Strega, Voodoo, Rare Bear ect. There are guys who do it to push themselves, who don't really make a big deal about winning, as long as they go faster than they have in the past. That is what counts to them. Nope, they might not be contenders in a 490mph + race, but they will be out racing themselves.

    Yes the class is in a state of flux, but its a sure thing it will die if we write the class off as dead before the guys who want to come out and push the limits are done doing so.

    Will

  8. #8
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    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    Quote Originally Posted by RAD2LTR View Post
    I'm not sure the class is doomed just yet. There are a few people who have racers who are waiting to see what happens with the class. There are others who are willing to spend a small fortune to ship their plane halfway around the world to run, without any real sponsorship to help cover the costs. Still others are taking their mostly stock looking aircraft and making them go faster than some of the big engined heavy metal. I agree with the Yaks potentially being the future since they are still under $1M (some for half that or less)

    The bigger issue that I see is pilot/owner age. There are no young guys stepping up to fill the shoes of the current older pilots/owners. Have there been a few younger guys who have raced in recent years? Sure, but not many. Some of the IF1 and Sport pilots need to find their way into the Unlimiteds. Philip Goforth wanted to race Czech Mate this year, but apparently that was a non starter since the owner isn't interested in racing the plane (But would love to sell it to someone. Tiger and Sherm were really pushing to get a current Yak owner to buy it last year.) We have seen a start to the changing of the guard with Joel winning in Dreadnought a couple years ago. Stevo, Jay, are both fantastic behind the stick. Bernie Vasquez flew the heck out of the P-40 and John Muszala looked really good in Shanty Irish. I'd bet Bernie and John would jump at the chance to race again, they just need a plane and financial backing to make it happen. Stevo seems like he is enjoying not racing for now, and Jay might have been a simple one and done, been there, done that twice, don't need to do it again. I do know that John Bjornstad is really looking forward to climbing into the seat of Tsunami and riding the wave around the course. There are a few younger guys, but not nearly enough to fill the field.

    I think a telling sign of the future will be what happens when Rare Bear comes back. With the Bear back, that gives Strega someone to race against. I'd bet we see Stevo in Strega again, and we have a pair of 480+ racers on the course once more. Tsunami will be along, the Redding Yak perhaps as well. We have Dago sitting in the hangar treading water, Furias is being poked at from time to time as well. There will always be a competition to be the fastest one around the course. With the Bear back on the board, there is someone to beat. (The question is, who will be at the stick of the Bear?)

    In terms of finding crew chiefs, there are guys out there who can likely do the job pretty well as they learned from the best, and have lead a gallant effort to win in the past. Yes the sport has lost Dave Cornell and Kerch, they were two of the best. There are people who learned from both, who could perhaps be nearly as good if given the chance.

    I can see the Super Stock racers being more common in the future. Miss A and Miss Van Nuys being two possible candidates . No, its not as simple as building a hot engine and dropping it in initially, but once the uprated cooling and ADI systems are in place, its a lot easier to do.

    There are many factors that will dictate the future of the unlimited class. Money drives many of them, but money is out there. The trick is getting the $ interested in the sport and willing to go big or go home. The drive to win and compete is there, be it PSAM in the King Cobra out there turning laps and looking good doing it, or Strega, Voodoo, Rare Bear ect. There are guys who do it to push themselves, who don't really make a big deal about winning, as long as they go faster than they have in the past. That is what counts to them. Nope, they might not be contenders in a 490mph + race, but they will be out racing themselves.

    Yes the class is in a state of flux, but its a sure thing it will die if we write the class off as dead before the guys who want to come out and push the limits are done doing so.

    Will
    Was wondering why CzechMate has not been seen in recent years. Was/Is it a case of as soon as Smoot hung up the helmet, the owner parked it? CzechMate seemed to be like Dreadnought, always lurking and just waiting for her chance. Really thought CM could have been a multi-time Reno winner, especially with no super Stangs, Bear, or Sep Fury in attendance. Is CM worth more returned to stock? What gives? What's the story?

    Why would Stu Dawson not be flying the Bear? Another back story that is being kept secret?

    What about Miss Merced? Haven't heard anything lately but there were rumblings several months ago.

    I'm hopeful the unlimiteds will survive and are just currently in the trough of the wave. There are still enough good, quality, fast planes around to make a resurgence happen. 2023 did you say?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    Quote Originally Posted by marada mx3 View Post
    Was wondering why CzechMate has not been seen in recent years. Was/Is it a case of as soon as Smoot hung up the helmet, the owner parked it? CzechMate seemed to be like Dreadnought, always lurking and just waiting for her chance. Really thought CM could have been a multi-time Reno winner, especially with no super Stangs, Bear, or Sep Fury in attendance. Is CM worth more returned to stock? What gives? What's the story?

    Why would Stu Dawson not be flying the Bear? Another back story that is being kept secret?

    What about Miss Merced? Haven't heard anything lately but there were rumblings several months ago.

    I'm hopeful the unlimiteds will survive and are just currently in the trough of the wave. There are still enough good, quality, fast planes around to make a resurgence happen. 2023 did you say?
    I think the owner got miffed with RARA not showing any enthusiasm of the plane racing. There was some talk of him feeling the plane was disrespected. That really turned him off from racing. Jay raced it last (2016 I think.) I agree, it would be a shoo in winner these days.

    Stu has apparently retired from racing, or at least that was the word on the street awhile back.

    Miss Merced hasn't raced in years. The owner also owns Furias, and does race T6s, but didn't race last year for some reason. I don't know why he doesn't run Miss Merced.

    Will

  10. #10

    Default Re: THE FUTURE IS/OF UNLIMITED? WHAT'S IT LOOK LIKE? THOUGHTS?

    I suspect the class continues in its current state until they make a significant change to the class rules.

    I've talked about this here before but for a class that is dominated by nostalgia, it really needs something new. New blood, new planes, new powerplants etc. I think you need to be open to any/all of them.

    Looking for more Yaks is a good idea because they aren't true "warbirds" and you can cut them up and modify them and people don't care and the value drop isn't as bad. Same logic is applied to why I think the class should allow slower planes like Tucanos, T-28s, etc.

    Tsunami is a very hopeful project. And another project is the Royal Horse Composite Spitfire project.
    https://www.royalhorseaviation.com/spitfire-specs
    "young" Thomas

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