The National Championship Air Races are set to begin next week and race airplanes are making their way to the Reno Stead Airport northwest of Reno, Nevada. Veteran racer Thom Richard, who started racing in Reno in the Formula One Class in 2007 and has been racing the Unlimited Class airplane Precious Metal since 2011, had his dreams of a win in this year’s competition shattered as his highly modified P-51 Mustang caught fire.
In a Facebook post, Richard reported that the airplane appeared to be running fine after he had refueled it on his way to Stead. But a bystander who noticed a fire underneath the fuselage alerted him to shut down the airplane on the ramp.
Richard shut down the engine and got out safely. The airplane may be in good enough condition to return to the skies at some point. However, according to Richard the damage was too severe for a return to racing. “It is with a heavy heart I am forced to announce the end of Precious Metal’s air racing career,” Richard said. Considering the fact that the airplane was full of fuel, the aftermath of the fire could have been much worse.
In his post, Richard expressed frustration with the local firefighting crew as he said it took them 12 minutes to arrive at the scene and 20 minutes to extinguish the fire.
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