This week of air racing was the Bear's to lose. Rare Bear was running strong all week long qualifying 18 mph more than 2nd place qualifier Brian Sanders in the Sea Fury "Dreadnought" who was at 452 mph. Third was our favorite Dan Martin in Ridge Runner III qualifying at 443 mph.
The top six stayed exactly where they qualified come Sunday.
The start of the race was called by Steve Hinton in the pace T-33. You could hear the power come up as the top three with the inside line jump out front. Dan Martin took a slightly wide angle down the shoot as he put the racing merlin to the test. He closed on Dreadnought quickly on the pace lap and passed him on the back side. Rare Bear was running hard and not an easy catch. Dan held 2nd and kept pace with the Bearcat! That means he must have turned speeds in the upper 460's.
Many of the photogs around me at pylon 2 were cheering for Dan as he ran strong chasing the Bear. But as happens in racing, the merlin decided to let go and Dan had to make the call "Race 20 is a mayday". That happened on the back side of lap 3 as Dan screamed upwards towards the sun with smoke trailing to get that precious altitude. I watched him and tried to keep an eye on the field. Dan circled to his left and set up for a downwind for runway 14. Winds were 100 at about 10 and not a big factor. He landed safely and stopped before the runway 26 intersection and that was it for Race 20.
Rare Bear could not be caught. Dan had a chance and it looked like he was going to put some pressure on him before the engine gave up. Word is that a burned piston was to blame. Dreadnought re-took 2nd by attrition and there were no other surprises on the finish.
1st Rare Bear, 466 mph
2nd Dreadnought, 449 mph
3rd Spirit of Texas, 430 mph
4th Riff Raff, 423 mph
5th Fury, 414 mph
6th Bad Attitude, 403 mph
7th September Pops, 400 mph
8th Conch Fury, 398 mph
9th Ridge Runner III dnf lap 3
It was a good race with absolutely beautiful weather. Congrats to the Rare Bear Team. Dan Martin was the last P-51 in the Gold race with Strega, Voodo, Miss America all out before Friday! The Sea Furies showed they are a force to watch, but John Penney piloting Lyle Shelton's Bearcat could not be stopped. It is a repeat win for Rare Bear.
It's time for the P-51s to get the trophy back in 2006.
Full report later.