race fans get to see more of Ron Buccarelli and Precious
Metal? It certainly looks that way... The team is looking at
making some serious modifications in the quest for more
speed. Story and Photos by Scott Germain -
any crew chief, pilot or aircraft owner on an air race team what
makes their racer as fast as it is. They will probably run down
the normal list of things that make an airplane quick: racing
engine, money, a talented crew, the usual airframe modifications
and a good pilot. But that will only get you to the next level.
There are hundreds of little details that get you the final ten or
15 mph. The difference between running 450 mph and 460 mph are
staggering, let alone 490.
Whatever speed range an airplane is
capable of, bumping up 10 mph is a significant accomplishment.
Want to equate that to money? The going rate is about $1,000 per
mph. Now how fast do you want to go?
Ron Buccarelli wants to go faster. During the Aviation Nation
airshow at Nellis AFB in November, Buccarelli gave
WarbirdAeroPress.com a tour of his Precious Metal Mustang
and briefed some improvements that will be made to the racer
before Reno next year.
Although Precious Metal is not overly heavy by any
means, the team is looking to shed some pounds from the airplane.
"Nothing too involved," Buccarelli said. "That part
will be simple."
engineer and photographer Jim Larsen has thrown his hat into the
ring, and will provide input on new fairings between the wing and
aft fuselage. Those that have followed air racing will remember
Larsen was a driving force behind the modifications made to the Roto-Finish
and Sumthin’ Else P-51 racers. Both racers were Reno
"We might go ahead and fill
the seams in the fuselage and paint it, too," Buccarelli
Buccarelli smiled as he showed the tail of the racer and
pointed to the elevator and rudder hinge line. "We’re going
to fill that to prevent air from getting in there and causing
drag," he said. "More aggressive mods will include
lowering the frontal area of the racer by removing the induction
scoop and going with a NACA duct, but the jury is still out on
Metal has always had somewhat of a hump-back appearance when
compared to other modified Mustang racers; it’s just the way the
racing turtledeck was made and put on the fuselage. Buccarelli
says they’d like to reduce the hump and install a Dago Red style
canopy; a design that allows it to be opened in flight, unlike the
stock belly scoop causes a lot of drag at race speeds, and can be
greatly improved. The fastest Mustang racers have highly modified
scoops that delete the boundary layer splitter and reduce the
inlet area by approximately one-third. The doghouse is also
reduced in depth and volume. Since most of the
radiator/heat-exchanger cooling is accomplished with spraybar
water; the air taken on through the scoop is just a means of
getting the water to the unit. Strega and Dago Red are
examples of this, and racers like Anson Johnson’s Race 45 and
Dave Zeuschel’s Stiletto did away with the scoop
|It’s no surprise that
Buccarelli wants to pay attention to the same area on Precious
Metal. "We want to get the scoop tighter to the
belly," he says. When he acquired the racer from the
Whittingtons, a lower profile scoop was on the airplane, but at
the time, Buccarelli thought he wasn’t getting proper cooling.
He had the stock scoop put back on, but found that his speed
small details that will be addressed include sealing the gaps
around the flaps and ailerons, and filling them with foam. The
team will also seal the cockpit to prevent air from moving around
inside the racer, and fairings will cover the elevator and rudder
trim actuators. Round head screws on the fuselage inspection
panels will be replaced with flush screws.
"We had a crew meeting in
December, and will have another one this month. The work should
begin pretty soon so we have the airplane ready to go in
September," he said.
Next Step Up
In 2001, Buccarelli said that he would only race one year at
Reno. He never got to race due to the cancellation of the races
that year, so he came back in 2002. Then he came back again in
2003; so you see how this is turning out... In 2003, the team won
the bronze race at a record speed of 407 mph without pushing the
Griffon engine too hard. Hopefully, a faster Precious Metal will
be back at Reno this year, and will be able to continue to build
on its success for years to come.
Story and Photos
Copyright 2003 - 2004 by Scott Germain - WarbirdAeroPress.com. All