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AirVenture Cup Race Tests ’Em All

July 21, 2018 - An air race that accommodates J-3 Cubs, Turbine Legends, and varieties of aircraft between those speed ranges, the Air Venture Cup Race is one reason fliers come to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Starting in Mitchell, South Dakota, at 9 a.m. on Sunday, the racecourse covers about 400 miles before fliers land in Wausau, Wisconsin, where a barbecue awaits them. From there, many participants will make the hop to Oshkosh. Expect to see some of this year’s AirVenture Cup entrants arriving at Oshkosh around 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Racing aircraft are grouped into 19 categories that consider things like engine size and number, production or experimental status, landing gear configuration, and induction type, all intended to keep the categories competitive. The AirVenture Cup embraces the competitive spirit of events like the classic cross-country National Air Races.

John Secord, a veteran of several AirVenture Cup races, explained that the reason for landing at Wausau is to prevent race traffic from conflicting with other Oshkosh arrivals. Then, the race participants can queue up with regular inbound traffic for AirVenture.

“There’s a large misconception about what the race is,” Secord said. He explained that the race is a social event for participants, and not a nail-biting dash. Aircraft are not in close formation or near to the ground like typical pylon racers. Entrants are vetted, but there’s no set minimum for flying experience. He added that they have brand new pilots as well as veteran fliers. The pilot roster includes plumbers, electricians, doctors, and test pilots, he said.

Secord, EAA 1142283, said the average age of pilots in the race is 56, with some as young as 21 or as old as 83. For 2018, around 75 entrants are logged in. There will be a winner in each class, as well as one overall speed award. A prize that has been snatched by Turbine Legend and Lancair Legacy pilots, top speed is well north of 400 mph.

Over two-and-a-half decades, the group responsible for the AirVenture Cup Race has tweaked its plans to accommodate the unexpected, like weather. Typically alternating courses every other year, the 400-mile route to Wausau starts at Mitchell or at Mount Vernon in Missouri.

The racers who arrive at AirVenture are typically parked near Boeing Plaza, where the aircraft can be inspected by show attendees.

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