No More Unlimited Class at Reno Air Races

Reno Air Races group pulls out for safety reasons.

Reno Air Races

Reno Air Races

The Reno Air Racing Association’s Pylon Racing Seminar took place last week with some surprising announcements. Matt Jackson, vice president of the Unlimited Division, announced that the Unlimited Division board of directors decided to pull out of the race “due to the inability of the Unlimited Class to reach a satisfactory resolution with the FAA and RARA to concerns regarding race course safety, specifically altitude restrictions.”

The FAA imposed a 250-foot maximum altitude restriction last year in order to protect spectators. The altitude restriction was imposed to ensure safety and minimize “scatter radii” in case of a mishap. The Unlimited Division Board, however, view the altitude restriction and other changes made to the course to be unsafe with regard to clearances and G-load margins. Jackson’s statement said, “It has always been the opinion of the Unlimited Class that if you keep the pilots safe, the crowd will also be safe.”

While the decision initially appeared to mark the end of the Unlimited races, the biggest draw for many Reno Air Race spectators, RARA quickly responded with an announcement that a new race class, the Unlimited Warbird Racing Class (UWRC), was formed as a joint venture between RARA and some Unlimited racers. UWRC will initially be headed by seven-time Unlimited champion Bill "Tiger" Destefani, who also owns Strega, a highly modified P-51 Mustang that has won the past few years' races with Steve Hinton Jr. at the controls.

Several crowd favorites have signed up under the new race class. Curt Brown will fly the Hawker Sea Fury Sawbones, Sherman Smoot has signed up with the Yak-11 Czech Mate, Tom Richard is entering with the P-51 Precious Metal and John Bagley will fly Bob Hoover's P-51 Ole Yeller. It was also announced that crowd favorite Voodoo, also a P-51 Mustang, will fly, although it is not known by whom. And there's no word on whether either of the recent winners, Strega or its pilot Steve Hinton Jr., will enter the race in the new race class.