Now a firm favourite on the Shuttleworth calendar, the 2022 edition of Race Day featured some welcome tweaks to the format to bring the automotive element of the event in line with the aviation side of things.
Years prior have seen the cars and bikes travel down the runway in the ‘Shuttleworth Sprint’ and with few opportunities to see the vehicles apart from at long distance on the runway. For this year’s event a new pit area had been set up on one of the back fields, offering plenty of space to view the myriad different vehicles on show. At set times for the two Sprints, from here they proceeded past the front of the hangars and onto the airfield and down the runway. Then, they entered back crowdside through a gate halfway down the runway and ran back to the pits along the tarmac road. All in all, this gave visitors so many more viewpoints around the site from which to view and photograph the cars and bikes and created a fantastic atmosphere with engine noise reverberating around the whole showground.
The flying display was opened with an aerobatic routine by Mark Jeffries in the Little Gransden based Yakovlev Yak-11, who seems to put on an enthralling display in just about anything he flies. Another warbird followed in the shape of Spitfire PR.XI PL983 courtesy of The Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford. This Spitfire has plenty of racing pedigree having been flown by famed Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Lettice Curtiss in the 1948 Lympne International Air Races, breaking the National 100km close-circuit record in the process. You can read about the history of this storied Spitfire in our feature with John Romain. John always puts on a wonderful display at Old Warden, making use of the curved crowdline and keeping the aircraft in front of the crowd.
The glider slot proved to be one of the most entertaining of the day, and really seemed to capture the public’s attention! This featured a handicapped glider race featuring the vintage Slingsby Kirby Kite Prototype and a Slingsby T.13 Petrel versus a modern Schleicher ASW 28-18E. Despite being released from the tow much later, the more modern Schleicher picked up speed quickly and dazzled the crowds as it performed larger wingovers whilst shedding its water ballast in long plumes. As with the gliders, the handicapped races are always entertaining to watch, particularly those featuring a plethora of different types and designs, such as one particular slot featuring the likes of Chilton DW1, Comper Swift and Mew Gull.
Despite being seen fly regularly throughout the summer months, when Shuttleworth’s pedigree racing trio of Comet, Mew Gull and Hawk Speed Six take center stage at Race Day, it always seems that bit extra special. That these three unique aeroplanes have all ended up together at the Shuttleworth Collection, one of the cornerstones of vintage aviation worldwide, and that they enjoy such a high degree of care whilst being flown and enjoyed regularly by the public, is quite remarkable.
One of the highlights of the show was seeing the Old Warden based Curtiss-Wright Travel Air D-4000 NC8115 making its first airshow appearance since arriving over a year ago following maintenance work. The attractive white and red biplane was displayed wonderfully by Charlie Huke. Sadly the D-4000’s hangar sister, Mystery Ship G-TATR, pulled out of the display, but hopefully now that it is also based at Old Warden it will appear at future shows.
And so it was left to the Sea Hurricane and Spitfire AR501 to be the final Shuttleworth aircraft display of the year, enjoying some lovely autumnal sun whilst being put through their paces. The final display act of the show saw Mark Jeffries return with his scintillating unlimited aerobatic routine in his Extra 330S which always stops people in their tracks.
When Race Day first took place in 2014, it wowed due to the dedication to such a niche theme and the format of the airshow. It is clear Shuttleworth has been working on the automotive elements of the event to try and increase its appeal and hopefully bring in a new audience, and having suffered a few washouts over the years which have affected this, it feels like this new format may have finally hit the nail on the head, and it will be interesting to see how this progresses in future.
Along with war, racing has been an excellent catalyst for the development of both automotive and aviation technologies over the years, and it is great that Shuttleworth continues to celebrate this history with a dedicated event.
For more information on upcoming Shuttleworth airshows and to purchase tickets, follow this link: www.shuttleworth.org/events/