Shuttleworth Collection Race Day

Shuttleworth Collection Race Day

Closing out a hugely successful season of air displays at Old Warden was the Shuttleworth Collection’s Race Day. The day celebrates Richard Shuttleworth’s own connections to the world of pre-war motorsport and air racing alongside a wider look at various forms of competitive aviation. Amongst the stars of the show were the debut of a stunning Travel Air D4000, the Aircraft Restoration Company’s beautiful Spitfire PRXI and a pyrotechnic finale by Mark Jefferies.

Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.

It has been nearly three years since the Shuttleworth Collection have been able to host a full Race Day event in October. Both the events planned for 2020 and 2021 were cancelled due to poor weather which was a great pity as being at Old Warden on crisp golden October Sunday afternoon is just so right. 2022, despite a few weather-affected events in June, has been a hugely successful one for the Collection with some real classic air displays. The Evening of Espionage Air Display in May enjoyed fine weather and also saw all five of the world’s Miles Magisters fly together for the first and maybe the last time. July’s evening show also saw the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles conduct a number of spectacular flypasts as part of their UK and European tour. There were also some spectacular line-ups for the Fly Navy and Vintage Airshows.

 

One thing that has been slightly odd throughout the 2022 has been the car park entrance and showground organisation which has changed several times during the season. At times, the car parking arrangements have been frustrating. For the Race Day they were changed again with a great tour of Old Warden’s parkland before returning towards the normal parking areas. More recent shows have also seen some car parking moved away from the traditional paddock area to allow more space on the slopes overlooking the runway. No bad thing in many ways – getting out of the parkland car park areas has always been much easier. However, Race Day complicated things further with part of the entrance road used for the sprint and the pedestrian entrance moved to a track through the college grounds which led straight into the busy race car paddock. Somewhat bizarrely the ‘shuttle golf carts’ also used the same trackway meaning at busy times you were constantly dodging moving vehicles!

The late morning and lunchtime period was given over the Shuttleworth Sprint. This saw a many different pre-war racing cars and motorbikes stretch their legs on Old Warden’s grass runway. It is certainly a spectacle to see so many beautifully prepared machines speed their way over aerodrome and a fine preparation for the main flying display.

 

The flying encompassed the whole history of competitive flying right from the earliest days of flying to through to more modern air racing. It started with a look at one of the types to find success in Unlimited Air Racing in the US, the Yakovlev Yak-11. The example displayed at Old Warden is no stranger to UK displays having been owned and operated by the late Angie Soper. It has however recently undergone a full refurbishment at Little Gransden following a wheels-up landing. The Yak was put through an elegant display by Mark Jefferies wearing Ukrainian roundels in solidarity with that nation’s armed forces following the invasion by Russia.

Further warbird action followed with a virtuoso display from John Romain in Supermarine Spitfire PRXI PL983. This aircraft, when under the post-war custodianship of the American Air Attaché, was raced by former Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Lettice Curtis. In August 1948 she set an international women’s record for the 100km closed circuit at the Lympne handicap in the Spitfire.

 

As with previous Race Day shows, there were some mock handicapped air races in the flying programme. The first saw several of the collection’s own aircraft fly several laps around the Bedfordshire country. These included the de Havilland DH51 ‘Miss Kenya’, Blackburn B2, Parnell Elf, Southern Market, Desoutter I, Miles Magister, Comper Swift and finally the de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk. A second race involved gliders. While not really representative of a proper gliding competition, it did show the remarkable development in aerodynamics and wing design with the vintage Slingsby Kirby Kite Prototype and Petrel taking on the modern-day Schleicher ASW 28-18E in a circuit race. Needless to say, the very slim and elegant ASW28 ran away with it despite being released much further away from Old Warden and releasing its water ballast during several passes.

 

As well as the mock races, there were grouped displays celebrating various different air racing events. Formula 1 Air Racing was celebrated with an eye-catching trio of Le Vier Cosmic Wind, Monnett Sonerai I and Cassutt Racer IIIM. The Collection’s own racers, the de Havilland DH88 Comet, Percival Mew Gull and Miles Hawk Speed Six also took the air ahead of a very pleasing segment of sporting aircraft including the Collection’s Comper Swift paired with Chilton DW1 G-JUJU, David Beale’s wonder Percival Mew Gull reproduction and the charismatic Travel Air D4000. The latter aircraft was making its Old Warden display debut and the type has a fascinating history. Principally designed by Lloyd Stearman (who would later develop the famous Boeing-Stearman Kaydet) the design also saw input from Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna and Bill Snook who were the co-founders of Travel Air. The Travel Air series of biplanes were extremely popular during the Inter-war years in the United States of America for use as executive transports, charter passenger services, mail and cargo services and in air racing. The -4000 was a three derivative of earlier designs powered by the 200hp Wright J-5 or J-4.

 

Aside from the air racing, there were sections devoted to some of military aircraft preserved at Old Warden. A First World War segment showcased the Collection’s RAF SE5a and Sopwith Pup alongside John Gilbert’s Nieuport 17 and David Bremner’s Bristol Scout. A later slot which should have seen a recreation of the ‘War of the Roses Air Race’ saw the Avro 504K perform quite a spritely solo display in the hands of Scott Butler. Sadly, the Blackburn Type-D Monoplane was unable to join the Avro as the winds were just out of limits. The Percival Provost T1 was also shoehorned in the display with an aerobatic solo providing a short interlude from the racing theme.

 

The Collection’s fleet of Second World War aircraft also took a starring role in the display towards the end of the afternoon. With the sun low in the sky and a golden light cast across Old Warden’s parkland, the Gloster Gladiator, Westland Lysander IIIa, Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib and Supermarine Spitfire Vc looked sublime as they swept along the crowdline for one final time in 2022.

The show closed with Mark Jefferies flying the Extra 300S G-EXIL. As well as being a superb aerobatic performer, the Extra too has played its part in air racing in series such as the Red Bull Air Race and the AeroGP. As well as showing off the superb aerobatic abilities of the Extra, Mark played homage to those race series with his ‘pyrotechnic slalom’ along Old Warden’s runway; a spectacular way for the Shuttleworth Collection to sign off its 2022 air display season!