Behold the Pond Racer!

Behold the Pond Racer! The only purpose-built Unlimited class racer that would compete in the Reno Races against the traditional P51s and Bearcats that had been dominating the circuit since WWII. Wax-industry magnate Bob Pond partnered with Burt Rutan to conceive the Pond Racer, with the charitable goal of saving P-51s and Bearcats from losses in air races (and driving up the prices of parts and airframes, as these aircraft became increasingly rare). ⁣ Outrageous in design, and equally outrageous in engineering and execution, this was out-of-the-box thinking beyond what anyone had ever witnessed. Rather than rely on time-tested aircraft powerplants (that were deemed too heavy and un-aerodynamic), the the Racer was powered by small 2 Nissan GTR V6 race car engines. During car races, these could generate 1,000hp – but for only small bursts at a time. The Pond Racer in contrast had to maintain 1,000hp during a 15 minute race!⁣⁣

Development and testing was troublesome. The engines had to fit in an impossibly small space, and were plagued with all kinds of issues during test-flights: Oil loss, electromagnetic interference, seizures due to extreme high RPMs. While projected to produce 1,000hp, they could only function properly at 650hp and medium RPMs. Because cool-running methanol fuel was used during races, the engines had to be pre-heated to full operating temperatures BEFORE starting. Upon shutdown, they were cooled off with huge A/C ducts, otherwise the cowling would melt off! As far as flying qualities, Burt claimed the aircraft was harder to fly than a Mig-29. It landed at 140 knots!⁣

During a qualifying race in 1993, one of the engines locked up and the prop did not feather. An inflight fire broke out consuming the aircraft, crashing in the desert below. Bob Pond was devastated, and completely dropped Reno Racing altogether (he had sponsored several teams before). Since then, no other attempt has been made to build another aircraft to challenge the Unlimited racers.



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