Reno Air Races
There are currently seven classes of aircraft racing at Reno, each with their own rules, race course layouts, and aircraft types.
The Biplane Class is represented by small, aerobatic aircraft like the Pitts Special, the Mong, and the Smith Miniplane, giving pilots a chance to apply their skills to racing on a 3.18-mile course at speeds exceeding 200 mph.
Formula One aircraft are all powered by a Continental O-200 engine (the same 100 hp engine used in a Cessna 150). Weights and sizes of every major engine part must be within stock limits. The cam profile and carburetion are strictly controlled. Race aircraft must have 66 square feet of wing area, weigh at least 500 pounds empty, and have a fixed landing gear and fixed pitch propeller. The fastest Formula One aircraft reach almost 250 mph on the 3.12-mile race course at Reno. Many Formula One aircraft are built by the pilots that race them and are a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy the excitement and satisfaction of air racing.
The Sport Class highlights the new and innovative work being done in the development of high performance kit-built aircraft. Competition in the Class is fierce, with the rapid introduction of race-driven engine and airframe technology. Eligible aircraft include production model kit-built aircraft, of which 5 or more kits have been produced and delivered to customers by the manufacturer, powered by a reciprocating engine of 650 cubic inches or less. All aircraft must have a current FAA issued airworthiness certificate.
Sport Class aircraft race on a 6.37-mile course at speeds reaching nearly 350 mph.
As the Sport Class has continued to evolve, and more technologically-advanced and purpose-built racers become available, a new "Super Sport" Class has been created. The division of sport aircraft into "Sport" and "Super Sport" allows stock aircraft to compete against each other, while providing an opportunity for the thoroughbred racers to compete on a different race course, with different rules, at significantly higher speeds.
The T-6 Class features match racing between stock aircraft, including the original T-6 "Texan", the Canadian-built "Harvard", and the US Navy "SNJ" version aircraft.
All of the T-6 variants are powered by the Pratt & Whitney Wasp R-1340-AN-1 air-cooled radial engine, which develops about 600 horsepower, and all have essentially the same airframe.
Originally built by North American Aviation, the 15,495 aircraft that were manufactured over the life of the model served primarily as advanced trainers, helping pilots bridge between basic trainers and front-line tactical aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang.
The fastest T-6 aircraft generally post race speeds into the 220-230 mph range on the 5.06-mile course at Reno. Because the aircraft are all of the same type, the T-6 class provides some of the most exciting racing at Reno, with an emphasis on strategy and pilot skill rather than raw horsepower.
The Jet Class was inaugurated in 2002 as an invitation-only class, featuring match racing with Czech-built Aerovodochody L-39 "Albatros" jets, racing at speeds in the 400+ mph range. In 2004, sponsorship and interest had developed to the point where the Class was opened to participation by any qualified pilot and aircraft.
The class currently is open to any non-afterburning aircraft with less than 15 degrees of wing sweep.
The Unlimited Class is open to any piston-driven aircraft with an empty weight greater than 4500 pounds [the weight restriction was added in 2005]. Aside from a very few "scratch-built" aircraft, the Unlimited Class has generally been populated by stock or modified WWII fighters, the most-often-flown types including the P-51 Mustang, F-8F Bearcat, and Hawker Sea Fury. Aircraft speeds in the Unlimited Class reach 500 mph.