September Thunder DVD Review
By Scott Germain -

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Television programs on air racing are few and far between; just flip through the tv guide to find out. The exit of the Skyfire Video production covering the Reno National Championship Air Races meant race fans were left with no post race video or DVD.

For Reno 2003, a one hour television production was shot and edited together. To recover the costs of the production, RARA has been offering video and DVD copies of the program to the public through their web site at

WAP received a copy of the DVD for review, and finds it to be one of the better shows covering the event. While it was designed, apparently, to educate and draw new race fans, even veteran fans will enjoy the sights and sounds of the unlimited class.

The Good

Plainly put, there is some kick-ass video of the racing! Cameras were placed at pylons four, eight and abeam the home pylon. There is also lots of ramp footage, some air to air, and in-cockpit footage from Dago Red and Rare Bear.

For pilots, the cockpit footage is quite educational; Skip Holm guides Dago Red around the pylons with nary a burble. The sight of the desert going by at over 500 mph is stunning. On the other hand, the footage from the Rare Bear cockpit shows just how much pilot John Penney has to work to keep the brutish racer on line around the pylons. Look for the shadows of the other racer on the ground.

The DVD also manages to capture the battle between Ron Buccarelli and Jimmy Leeward during Sunday’s record breaking bronze race. Jimmy really kept his stock Mustang close to the pylons, while Buccarelli let his Griffon powered racer float a bit outside. Lot’s of good footage here.

Lyle Shelton, John Penney, Skip Holm, Mary Dilda and Bill Rheinschild give interviews during the show, and give some good insight to the sport, their racers, and how they fit into the big picture. People new to racing will appreciate the explanation on how air racing is done, and the different classes of aircraft. Most of the spotlight is given to the unlimiteds, but there is some attention to the other classes.

When it came to Friday’s record setting heat race, the program establishes how Rare Bear had made a comeback, and fought off Dago Red for the first lap. Coverage of this was nice, and added some required background.

Through the rest of the show, there are small segments on the history of modern air racing, Miss America’s comeback, Mike Brown’s difficulties and what types of aircraft race in the unlimited class.

The Bad

Overall, there isn’t a lot to find wrong with the show. It is put together well, it is professional, and it conveys the sights and sounds of Reno. However, long time fans will find many detail mixups, one sunrise sequence from the 1980's run backwards, and some misinformation.

The Ugly

There is no ugly to this fine production, and hopefully RARA will sell a lot of them and continue to produce them. In more of a joking tone, the following questions were generated:

Why do all current announcers/narrators have British accents?
Why do they fail to properly recognize race planes?
Why doesn’t Mary Dilda wear a helmet during the race?
Why, oh why, do producers insist on crazy camera angles?

Consider picking up your own copy of the DVD or video at RARA’s web site:

Review by Scott Germain - Copyright 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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