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Rare Bear Takes Pole

Reno Air Racing Update
Sept. 08, 2003

By Wayne Sagar

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The Bear Is Back

Sometimes things just happen for a reason, at least that is what one very good friend of mine often tells me.

Rare Bear’s week at Reno got off to a somewhat shaky start during Sunday’s practice session when on the first flight of the day, the tail gear doors stuck open.. Could this have been indication of the beginning of just another frustrating week for this race team? Certainly, that was the question on the minds of many at the time.

The fix was an easy adjustment, and the afternoon test flight on Sunday went well… the team was set for a run at the clock on Monday.

As we wrote in our message on the Hangar Talk message board, on Monday, things did not quite work out as planned. Low compression was found on the very critical number 2 cylinder, and the team set up for a "Thrash," an all night repair session to replace the ailing cylinder. We stayed with the team last night (Monday) until they were into the clean up phase of the repair (an experience we’ll share with you in more detail after the races are over).

Upon our late arrival to Stead today, the Rare Bear Crew were in the process of preparing their charge for flight, we were told that some easy time on the engine was all that was on the flight plan. Moving out to "Vultures Row" the photo stand at the northwest end of the field used by the media for photography, I did not expect too much from the flight session with Rare Bear..

As other raceplanes took the course, John Penney circled overhead at about 15,000 feet, doing just what the team had on the flight plan… there *was*, however, one item on the flight plan they did not mention! Rare Bear Engineer, Bill Hickle and John Slack (borrowed from Dago Red to lend his expertise for the engine work) had told John that he should apply some hard power to the engine to "seat" the rings in the new cylinder if all felt OK after some "slow timing".

What better place to put some power to the airplane than on the race course!

So it was, today, September 08, 2003, in very windy and chilly conditions, at the Reno Stead Airport, John Penny, flying Lyle Shelton’s Fan Sponsored Rare Bear, took the clock and turned in a qualifying speed of 495MPH and change.

After nearly six years of hibernation, a year with a new crew, with the help of thousands of very loyal Air Race fans…. THE BEAR IS BACK!

Will Dago Red go back out and snatch back the pole, try for the 500mph lap? Risk their engine? One more day of qualifying remains..

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The captions contained in the enlarged photos surrounding this article contain much more of the story. (click small images to enlarge) Nearly all of the Rare Bear’s top competitors visited their pit, or called congratulations… it seems, even their adversaries are Rare Bear Fans!
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