Veteran pilot Skip Holm became the first to break the 500 mph barrier in his red Mustang Dago Red in the 40 years of competition at the Reno National Championship Air Races.
Holm, Calabasas, Calif., was clocked at 507.1 miles per hour in Friday's Unlimited class heat race. He told the Reno Gazette-Journal he thought he'd go faster than 500 mph sometime this weekend, but was surprised to pull it off in the opening race before a crowd of about 25,000 at Reno-Stead Airport.
Second-place finisher John Penney in the No. 77 Bearcat, Rare Bear, lagged about 10 seconds behind, but still did nearly 493 mph.
More than $1 million in prize money is up for grabs at the races through Sunday. heat race.
"This is the fastest motor-sport in the world, its awesome," said Dan Juhl, 55, of Orange, Calif., who compared the excitement to Rare Bears record-breaking 1991 race.
Rare Bear owner Lyle Shelton established a race record of 481.618 that year.
"People were standing up and shouting. The whole atmosphere was electric," said England resident Mike Newall, 45, who was lounging with three friends and some drinks near the box seats.
When Penney found out about the record-breaking run, he was amazed by the high speeds including his own.
"It felt like a Sunday race. I've never run a faster race. We usually run about 440 in a Friday race," he told the newspaper.
Gary Hubler, who was chasing Holm and Penney in No. 15 Sea Fury, Furias, said he knew the 500-mph mark would be beat eventually. "I think it's fantastic. It had to happen sometime."
Holms record should be tempered by the fact officials this year are calculating speeds from time and distance differently. Because they figured that race planes cant fly directly from pylon to pylon, but must make more of a realistic circle path, they lengthened the courses but only on paper, not on the ground. No pylons were moved.
Pilots were told to expect about 2.5 percent higher calculated speeds.
Asked whether his 507 mph run was a result of the new calculation, Holm replied it probably was partly that. "If they're going to make changes, they're going to have to live with them."