Reno Air Races
Stead Airport, KRTS
Well – what a season… we had our best year yet and ended up winning the Rocketeer award. This award goes to the most improved team year over year and greatest mph increase. Firstly, a huge thanks to the team: Andrew Higgs, John Walker, Rob Paisley and Matt Fox Carmichael. Without the commitment of team ‘Grove Aero’ we wouldn’t have achieved the milestones we did.
The week started off steady. As you can imagine, no one wants to go hard out of the gate so we’re all just babying the race engines and getting to know our September Race Family again. The first part of the week for us was… well quite uneventful, which compared to 2018 was a welcome change. We had 3 maydays in 2018, 1 mechanical failure, and then 2 maydays I called personally due to a flamed out cylinder or two… but that’s for another time. We were running conservative through practice and quals… our strategy was to qualify for the Gold and slowly work our way up the pack through the week.
Reno is notorious for DNF’s, breakdowns and well MAYDAYS! Most of the teams, especially in the Gold, are managing their race engines through the week and saving the real power for that all important Gold final on Sunday! We’re no exception, and it’s amazing that no matter how prepared you feel back at base camp that when you get to Reno it’s like starting over! Nothing seems to perform as expected and we end up dealing with hot cylinders that have never been hot before. We ended up tweaking water misters to positions that don’t even make sense but end up working. Oh, and then there’s the ADI (Anti Detonation Injection Fluid / Water Methanol Mix), it’s a science they tell me and you hear the name Pete Law mentioned a lot when this topic comes up. But I’m no engineer, and I rely heavily on my team who are way smarter than I am.
We ran great; we posted progressively faster race course times each day we ran. We were fortunate to run the LIT timing GPS components which really helped to shed some light on the course and our top speeds. That combined with numerous data dumps from the MGL IEFIS Lite, provided the fine tuning we needed to make those all important baby steps needed to improve. Our systems are state of the art, and the firewall forward package really is unique. We’re not using the typical aviation components as found on most race aircraft. Our System 32, from FLY EFII, is a great advantage to us. We’re able to map ADI values to MAP controlled fuel curves, tune individual cylinders on the fly (not advisable during a race or qual) and really get granular when it comes to the performance of the GA1 Legacy.
The heart of the firewall forward is the AC-AERO 540TT. Most of the components are bespoke to the race plane. Our partner AC-AERO has produced components for us since 2018. We learned a lot and proved the viability of many of the components. Custom rods, thrusted pistons, crank and AX50 cylinders were an exceptional package. They provided greater horsepower which you would think is great; however the challenges with any air-cooled technology is controlling the thermal side effects of all that horsepower. Most of the race teams use ADI to combat the higher IAT’s, as a result of the boost levels we’re running. We also terminate misted water over the engine to extract more heat from the cylinders and still that’s not enough. We ran as hard as we could without jeopardizing the aircraft or breaking our safety standards and margins for the package. The ultimate goal at Reno is not to win in my opinion… but to be safe, be predictable and to respect and value your compadres and classmates safety.
So what’s the next phase? We’re quite frankly sick and tired of fighting the heat issues with air cooled engines. That’s why AC-AERO has been designing a liquid cooled Lycoming replacement cylinder. It’s not a new technology as you can imagine, but not a prevalent one for the aviation industry. We are well underway in the development of the new AX42 Gladiator and AX43 Centurion cylinders and will be campaigning this technology in 2020. You can check out more about these cylinders at the AC-AERO website: http://www.ac-aero.com.
Here’s to a successful 2020 season, and if you’re in Reno in September we’d love for you to stop by our pits and get to know you, and share our passion in aviation.
Cheers and till September!
Karl Grove | GA1 Race Pilot
“Racing is life, everything else in between is just waiting”. Steve McQueen
without which – we would not be successfull!
karl grove | pilot, owner
44 Years young, and probably 12 years young mentally. Racer mentality with a no compromise approach to racing, marketing and performance.
andrew higg | AC-AERO, engineer
After much success in F1 race development Andrew is a formiddable engineer with an equal passion for racing and development. Designer of the Higgs Diesel V12 and AX43 Liquid cooled engines.
John walker | crew chief, electronics
A builder himself with a very nice RV10, John is a business owner and entrepeneur with a passion for aviation and all types of flying. John was an instrumental part of the GA1 build and was there for much of the journey.
Rob paisley | flyeffi, electronics
Owner of FLY EFFI and industry innovator of electronics. Rob’s passion for aviation and racing is evident. His successful EFII systems for experimental GA have brought aviation into the 21st century.
Matt Fox Carmichael | assistant crew chief
Financial advisor by profession but red blooded racer by vocation! Matt has been around racing for many years and while new to aviation his experience in off-road and get er done attitude fueled many of our late night efforts to make it happen captain!