Shirl Dickey’s RACEs

I just heard news and haven’t had time to confirm it, that Jackpot and Kanab RACEs are going away.

Heck. I was in the running to be the next RACE winner (until I get there and succumb to Beagle by a couple of lengths again).

The only RACE event I have ever won was Wendover in 2001. My race strategy that day was by far my most brilliant; and the most recent mod had in fact delivered a solid five miles per hour.
And I must have been pretty close to the actual course as there was no official notification of penalty for cutting a pylon. The only other plane in my heat was a -172 in the touch and go pattern. He probably didn’t notice my victory roll heading north past the Bonneville Salt Flats after thrashing him.

Of course this was the first Friday in July, a couple of months after the actual Wendover RACE. The reason I was headed north from Wendover was because I was on the way across the Great Salt Lake desert to the 4th of July Jackpot RACE the next day. I saw my one chance at victory at Wendover and took it. So no wonder the -172 didn’t appreciate the significance of the day. More on Jackpot later.

The actual, first, for real official RACE event for me was Kanab 1997 where I finished third in my class. Really.

Once I had decided to go for it, it had taken me several days just to find out where the heck Kanab was. Even what state it was in. I had successfully avoided computers at the time and this was pre GPS for me. I finally found it on the map. Bet I could get you turned around good back on some of the ranches from my old helicopter cow herding days.

So 6’3” friend Jerry McAdams and I set out, Fort Worth to El Paso to Kanab. After seven hours we crossed in silent awe over the Grand Canyon and entered a new world.

At Kanab we found a rock had nicked the B&T prop. Someone got Shirl. He looked it over and pronounced it repairable.

An unknown EZ driver came over and nodded at me and I nodded at him and he globed a little 5-minute epoxy flox into the spot and covered it carefully with peel ply and masking tape. He handed me a square of fine sandpaper and said to wait at least an hour before flying.

A guy came over and said, “You’re a rookie, right? I’m Beagle (David Orr), jump in, the water’s fine. You won’t even feel like you’re in a race. It’s the same stuff you do in the pattern every day. Just pay attention during the brief. Pay good attention to Shirl. After the brief come talk to me again.”

I watched him walk off trading hellos and inside-joke insults with all kinds of folks taxiing in and shutting down and tipping over and wiping bug guts off. I could imagine the life he and all these other lucky folks had been living for the last twenty years and was totally envious. I decided I wanted to be like him when I grow up.

The North Las Vegas Five roared overhead for the break. Gary Hertzler was there. Klaus Savier was there with his dual electronic ignitions. Well, I had dual mags! And no alternator. And a handheld com and back camping GPS. My upholstery stayed with the backpacking theme.

After listening in on the brief, I decided why not. There was no reason not to join in.
Just before race time I felt the air tingling and noticed folks saddling up. It was electric. I started taking oil cans and tool kits out and it started on the second pull and had a stuck valve. Shirl walked over and watched it idling rough. He shook his head. I flipped the mags off, and watched the heroes climbing out, dashing off to their destiny.

My seven hour back seat buddy Jerry McAdams, LongEZ builder extraordinaire, normally un-intrusive to a fault, said why not try starting it up again and see what happens. It purred. Shirl gave a thumbs up and said to do a good runup and cautious climbout. By this time the rest of my fifteen-plane heat was ten miles west and turning inbound for the runway starting point.

I jumped in and strapped it on and Jerry looked everything over and Shirl pointed to taxi out that-a-way and I lifted off and it was running sweet and I kinda followed their circuit around and heard the start call and saw the silver fish passing over the runway drifting away and down.

I had climbed too much above them. Someone on the ground radio said straight-wing VariEze turn in more, now. I was flailing toward the start point to follow their shallow dive. It was wide open and I was ready to pull the throttle back a little but was only doing 2900 rpm. The GPS speed showed 210 mph and it brought a smile, but after leveling off it was short lived.

I knew I was on the heading but saw no one ahead. Then I heard them report Turn One and saw their canopies glinting in the first turn way up ahead. When I got closer to the turn I saw a few planes but lost them again when they leveled out heading away from me. The second leg showed mostly 194 mph ground speed on the GPS.

After turn two I descended a little and ran for home. Racing along the spectacular red cliffs I was unable to fully take in the spectacle before me.

Passing underneath several unaware EZs a couple of hundred feet above me, the GPS showed 181 against the wind.

The critical altitude rule was to be at least one hundred feet when passing over the runway finish line. I mentally ran through the briefed dos and don’ts of the finish and landing pattern. I cleared all around and behind and climbed a little.

Crossing over the finish line, I didn’t know it yet but I had come in third in my class
…of three.
Down below I saw the other two VariEze drivers in my class: Hertzler was walking away from his parked plane toward some lawn chairs in the shade beside the hanger, where Klaus was sitting drinking a soda.

My speed was 186 mph even with the delayed start and lousy mostly uphill strategy. I think Hertzler still had the C-65 at that time.

On the way home over Arizona and New Mexico I got video of Jerry grinning in the back and the GPS showing 201 mph cruise ground speed at 12.5K and 2600 rpm.
Kings Of The World.

Bill James, Fort Worth VariEze

Next week- either a dash of Jackpots 97 and 2001, or a maybe little Mod Talk


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