Not all competition means tyres on asphalt – air racing is blisteringly quick and demands split-second reactions. Toughest of all is unlimited class racing, where WWII warbirds are pitted against each other around an 8.5-mile course at speeds of up to 500mph. If it’s your thing, one of the fastest piston-engined racing aeroplanes in the world is for sale in the USA.
Clocked at 481mph while winning the Gold Unlimited Class at the 2006 Reno air races – the Monaco of aero competition – the Hawker Sea Fury was radically modified in 1998 to aim for maximum speed. It was reskinned, air vents and inlets closed off and a racing canopy and propeller fitted, with a supercharged 18-cylinder fuel-injected Curtiss-Wright radial engine up front providing some 3500hp.
Designed in 1942, these brutally powerful machines exemplify the peak of propeller-powered design before the jet engine, and the Sea Fury carrier variant served into the 1950s with Britain’s Fleet Air Arm. Civilian owners prized them for their speed and converted many for racing, and some still compete. This 1947 aircraft was found in a farmer’s field in Canada in 1962 and restored to flying shape with a Bristol engine, but was rebuilt after a crash, racing successfully in the US until new owners decided to turn it into the world’s fastest Sea Fury. However, the changes are all reversible, says specialist dealer Platinum Fighter Sales in America.
Now after a top-level career including winning the 2006 National Championships the Fury is on offer, complete with two sets of wings, one pair clipped for racing, one standard plus the original canopy.