We got up early on Day 3 (Sunday) and headed over to the airport via shuttle bus to get some breakfast and a briefing. Both were good. Everyone saddled up their aircraft and the race crew started sending planes out about one every minute or so, separated by class (engine size, retracts, etc.) for the most part with the slower aircraft first.
Wayne and I had a bit of a wait, so we spent the 45 minutes going over frequencies, procedures, and strategy (which boiled down to "stay high enough to be over the haze layer and not get hammered by turbulence" - not a great racing strategy, I'll grant you but hey, I wasn't going to win anyway :-) ). We finally took off to the west, then circled right to head over to First Flight Airport (FFA). This is not (even for those who've been there) an easy airport to find, since the runway is in between two rows of tall trees. The monument is pretty obvious, but if you don't know where the runway is.....
Anyway, we flew a bit too far to the east and then had to do a teardrop turn back to line up with the runway, diving down from 1200 ft. to about 400 ft. straight down the runway past the starting line, getting the "Mark" call from the start crew. This was the first of many high speed passes; the first ever for me in any aircraft, much less the COZY. Screaming down the narrow runway at 210 IAS is a trip -). We then immediately turned on course to the northwest (direct to Dayton) and climbed to 6500 ft. We flew for a while there, and then climbed up to 10,500 ft. as the winds were slightly more advantageous (although it turned out that it was probably six of one, 1/2 dozen of another).
Some stayed low (1000 AGL was the race minimum), and some went high (Jay Blum (Long Eze) went to 20K ft, which turned out to be a strategic error, as he lost his division by about 1.5 mph). The turbo guys were all up around 17K ft. or so, and it paid off big time for them. We (Wayne and I) set our course to miss the "Pickett" restricted areas (although it turns out they were cold) but it only added about 1 mile to the 528 miles of the first day's course. The flight was pretty uneventful - we only saw two planes the whole time until we got to the finish line.We flew extremely loose formation (since we were slowly passing them) with a L.E. slightly ahead and to the right, and it had a relatively close encounter with some sort of aircraft coming the other way. The Navaid kept us on course, the MP3 player kept us entertained (along with listening to the chatter on the race frequency) and the view was wonderful. We kept up with our position on the charts every couple of minutes, making sure that we both knew exactly where we were (and where the nearest airports were) along the way. This was by far the longest cross-country flight that either Wayne or I had ever been on, and over completely unfamiliar territory.
About 40 miles out we descended to 6500 ft. and then stayed there for a bit. We then began our descent again about 25 miles out, diving at 210 mph - 215 mph IAS toward the finish line at Dayton (MGY) runway 29 (closed). As it turns out, the winds were from the south, so the airport traffic (95% of which was race planes) were landing on the southbound runway (20). This meant that the race traffic, trying to cross the finish line, was coming over the threshold of 20 at 100 ft. - 500 ft. while planes were climbing and circling right, slowing from race speed, and entering downwind, base, and final to 20, coming in low to stay under the race traffic. We called in about 3 miles out (less than one minute) to let the finish line crew know we were coming. We kept our eyes VERY peeled, since about 4 planes were coming to the finish line within 30 seconds of us, but no one passed us in the last 3 miles as far as I could tell. We got our "Mark" call as we passed over the finish line crew, finishing with an average ground speed of about 184 mph with a 15 mph headwind just about the whole way. It took 2 hours, 52 minutes, 6 seconds for the 528 mile leg.
Everyone did an EXCELLENT job, and the only mishaps were one nosegear collapse and one flat tire on landing, both on the "Speed Canards", along with a broken throttle cable in a Lancair just after crossing the finish. One of the L.E.'s (the Fritz's) had a damaged nosewheel due to a strong crosswind gust on landing, but David Orr loaned them his spare nosewheel to continue the race.
We probably scared the bejeezus out of a couple of transients who had no clue what was going on at the airport and just wandered over to do a few touch and go's. There were a few go-rounds due to conflicting traffic, but not many, all things considered.
We got there around 12:30 PM, refueled the plane(s) (we all were alloted up to 60 gallons of gas free - I took on 43 gallons) and hung out in the hosts's hanger waiting for everyone to arrive. All three broken planes were repaired (for the most part). We were fed lunch and then dinner, and had a briefing for the second day before taking a bus to the motel. Although the bus driver was nice enough, he gave the impression of having partaken in far too many hallucinogenic substances in his youth..... The bus ride was almost as exciting as crossing the finish line.
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