Rare Bear Update
By John Penney
Dear "Bear" Fans,
This year the "Rare Bear"
Air Racing team faced one of the most challenging race weeks for our
team that I can remember in the last several years. In previous
years, we had our backs against the wall, but the challenges this
year were more daunting.
We couldn't get our Cornell race engine done in time due to some
mechanical issues. As a result, just weeks before the races, the
decision was made to buy a stock Curtis-Wright R3350 from Anderson
Aeromotive that was meant to go to the B-29 "FIFI". Our crew, under
the guidance of Crew Chief Dave Cornell, replaced its "fast" nose
case with an EA2 nose case with a higher reduction ratio that
allowed us to run our desired race rpm without overspeeding the
prop. That was all that was done to modify this engine for this
During the off season, Dave Cornell had designed and engineered an
oil cooling boil-off system to replace the air radiator/spray bar
system that the "Bear" had raced with since her first race in 1969.
Such systems are known to reduce cooling drag...worth horsepower.
Estimated numbers for the "Bear" are classified.
We had anticipated getting some flight test done on the boil-off
system the week before the races started, but as the "Bear" always
does, she fought us all the way to the first flight. The big
question mark this year would be the boil-off system. We simply
didn't know how the system would function and cool the oil. So we
entered into a research and development (R&D) program that lasted
right up through the finish of the gold race on Sunday.
Our first flight was on Monday morning of the races...a five minute
flight that ended up with a Mayday, a cancellation, then another
Mayday to a landing. That was driven by the resultant temperatures
and the fact that I had never seen the system response until that
first flight. We worked to modify and tune the system, more flight
tests, then got "in the show" on Tuesday with a speed of 402.678
mph...with less than takeoff power on our "stocker" engine! That put
us in 11th place for qualifying, and we had to race in the silver
heat on Thursday with no ADI. We crossed the finish line second, but
bumped to the gold as "Riff-Raff" had cut a pylon. Speed was 412.230
On Friday, we still did not have ADI but finished 6th in the gold
with a speed of 434.872 mph. On both Thursday and Friday we had to
use our ADI system as a
backup source for our boil-off supply system
so we couldn't get the benefit of water injection to cool our
induction temperatures. 434 and change ain't bad for running the
engine dry...still below takeoff power!
On Saturday we now had ADI but our induction temperature indicating
system was inop. So we crossed our fingers and used a reduced power
setting...finished fourth at 471.500 mph. Finishing fourth with a
speed of 471 mph, on Saturday, shows how fast the field of racers at
Reno is now becoming. Awesome!
Finally we had made it all the way to Sunday's Gold Championship
Race when we ran the best power we could with the stock engine but
were still off by more than 25% from what we've seen from a full up
race engine. Because of the configuration of the engine, it was self
limiting on the horsepower we could draw, and we finished second to
"Strega" at 479.088 mph. All things considered, the speed we
finished with for an average 479.088 mph speaks well to the drag
reduction efforts of Dave Cornell and our crew. We now know this
airframe is FAST!
As always, it's disappointing for the "Bear" to finish anywhere but
first, but we are very encouraged about what our capabilities will
be for next year when we'll have a full up Cornell race engine
motoring around the course.
And, our crew and team are very happy and congratulatory for Stevo
Hinton with his gold victory. Stevo and his ability to make "Strega"
perform the way they did represent the future of this sport.
Finally, our whole team is very, very fortunate to have the best
owner in the sport of unlimited air racing...Mr. Rod Lewis. This
effort with the "Bear" has required an enormous level of support
from Rod, and he has stepped up to the plate...again. He's done it
every year, for the last three years, since taking ownership of the
"Rare Bear" Air Racing Team. Our goal is to make Rod's support
meaningful next year with the fastest race finish ever to have
happened at Reno. I know we can do it...so standby for Reno 2010!
As always, thank you, all of you "Bear" fans, for your unending
support. See you next year...
John Penney, team member
"Rare Bear" Air Racing Team