‘Race Day’ brought the Shuttleworth Collection’s flying season to a close on the 1st October. The event celebrated Richard Shuttleworth’s passion for motor and air racing in the pre-war years. It brought together an enticing mix of racing bikes, motor cars and aircraft which are beautifully framed by the autumnal colours breaking out around Old Warden Aerodrome.
Paul Johnson/Flightline UK reports. All photography by the author.
‘Race Day’ has brought the Shuttleworth Collection’s flying season to a close for many years now. It has become a really popular event amongst pre-war motoring enthusiasts and brings together an incredible array of early motorsport machinery more often associated with events at Goodwood, Brooklands or the multitude of historic festivals held at motor racing circuits around the country.
However, racing is quite a niche theme for an aviation event which makes the Shuttleworth’s finale rather unique on the display circuit. Being so unique does bring other issues however and it is fair to say that previous editions of the Race Day flying display have all been very similar.
However, the 2023 Race Day flying display was refreshed with a number of new aircraft and set-pieces. Opening the event were a quartet of Second World War aircraft from the Shuttleworth Collection, the Gloster Gladiator, Hawker Sea Hurricane Ib, Supermarine Spitfire Vc and Westland Lysander. They were not the only warbirds in the display. John Romain flew a sublime aerobatic routine in the Aircraft Restoration Company’s Spitfire PRXI in tribute to Lettice Curtis who flew this very aircraft in air races following the Second World War.
The penultimate set-piece also looked to warbird racers with the naval pairing of the NavyWings Heritage Flight Supermarine Seafire XVII and Fighter Aviation Engineering Ltd’s Hawker Fury ISS. After some formation passes both fighters split for solo routines. Bill Dean gave a wonderful account of the Seafire in the early evening sun rather overshadowing a somewhat distant series of passes by the Fury.
The NavyWings Heritage Flight also contributed to the Reno themed set-piece which featured a trio of North American Harvards. Its aircraft was joined by those operated by T6 Harvard Aviation Ltd and Hurricane Heritage. The three aircraft recreated the sights and sounds of a Reno style pylon race flying a circuit pattern around the Bedfordshire skies. Tragically, the final Reno Air Races held this year were cut short by an accident which occurred just after the T6 class race. In salute to the pilots lost in the accident the three Harvards performed a missing man pass to close their routine.
Completing the military flying were a series of solo displays from some of the Collection’s First World War fleet. These included the RAF SE5a, Sopwith Pup and Sopwith Triplane.
Another unique element to Shuttleworth displays in recent years have been displays by vintage gliders. For race day, a borrowed Piper Super Cub performed a dual tow with the beautiful prototype Slingsby Kirby Kiteand Slingsby Petrel. As the gliders climbed the height, the days only example of a Formula 1 racing aircraft, the Cassault Racer IIIM ‘Kermit’ performed a solo display. These tiny aircraft still race at events around the world in series such as AirRace1.
Shuttleworth’s own fleet of racing aircraft took a starring role with the de Havilland DH88 Comet, Miles Hawk Speed Six and Percival Mew Gull all taking starring roles alongside David Beale’s wonderful Mew Gullreplica. However, the racing theme encompassed many of the other Collection aircraft. The traditional mock air race involved the de Havilland DH51 ‘Miss Kenya’, the Blackburn B2, the Parnell Elf, Southern Martlet, Miles Magister and Avro C19 Anson. There was also a tribute to the famous King’s Cup Air Race involving the Hawker Tomtit, de Havilland DH60X Moth, Desoutter and de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk.
Adding to the vintage racer themed flying were some visiting displays. A very colourful sequence brought together the Collection’s Comper Swift with a pair of Chilton DW1s. The famous Cleveland Air Races were remembered with a solo display by Dan Griffith in the stunning art-deco Travel Air 4000 owned by Richard Seeley. Dan also flew in a later 1930’s set-piece piloting the incredible looking Travel Air ‘Mystery-Ship’Type-R alongside Bob Morcom in one of the Little Gransden based Spartan 7W Executives.
‘Race Day’ was brought to a spectacular conclusion by Mark Jefferies flying a tribute to the Red Bull Air Races. We are used to seeing Mark flying his Extras but for this show he flew a Zivko Edge 540 – the most successful type to participate in the closed course air race series. To recreate the low-level pylon racing, Mark has ground-based pyrotechnics which he slaloms around. In the darkening backdrop, Mark’s eye-catching display was a truly awesome way to close out another hugely enjoyable season at Old Warden. It also marked the end of the era with the Shuttleworth introducing a revamped format for its airshows in 2024 though ‘Race Day’ retains its place as the season finale.