After 32 years of pylon racing success, and innovation, aIr racing legend Jon Sharp, and team leader of Nemesis® Air Racing is “Callin’ It A Day” by announcing his retirement from pylon racing, He’s walking away as the winningest pilot in the history of Air Racing.
Jon and his Team holds many of the most cherished records in air racing, including speed records on every race course flown in both the Formula 1 “Nemesis®”, and the most recent Sport/Super Sport class NemesisNXT®. His Team’s prestigious pylon racing resume includes winning a record 15 Reno Air Racing National Championships.
Jon and the Team’s career began with a trip to the first ever air races in Mexicali Mexico in 1978 with the Formula1 plane Jon had purchased named “Bilbo”, a stock Cassutt design racer. At Mexicali, Jon began building the team, starting with the backbone, Crew Chief Steve Hill. Jon and his fledgling team, came in last place that year, but the racing bug had bitten hard.
Along the air racing journey the team made stops at the air races in Mojave CA., Cleveland OH., and San Diego CA. Jon and his team went to the Reno air races for the first time in 1979 with “Bilbo”. Later “Bilbo” would be renamed “Aero Magic” in honor of the team’s engine builders Don Sanford, and Jack Wells, proprietors of the company Aero Mag.
Jon and the Team’s first of two Reno Championship wins with Aero Magic came in 1982, the second Championship in 1986. In 1987 on the way to the San Diego Air Races, Jon met his wife to be Patricia Haynes. The team was forever improved upon. Patricia instantly became Team Manager. She made all transportation plans, and arrangements, organized team activities, and made team support assignments. In addition she became the team’s press director, and the all important sponsorship co-ordinator. Later she would assume a higher role in manufacturing, and president of the “parts department”.....
After the 1987 Reno races, “Aero Magic” was sold to make room for the next step in air racing history...... 1988 would bring a wrinkle to the resume. Jon, not to be left out of the Reno races borrowed a Formula1 plane to race. The plane was dubbed “Blue Streak”. With the team’s potent engineers, and power package, “Blue Streak” was the fast qualifier. Mechanical problems stopped Jon and “Blue Streak” from what could have been that year.
1989 was a new beginning for Jon and the Team when Jon and Patricia were married, and were relocated from Texas to California. Before the move, the team had already begun work on the next step.
The next step, was the beginning of air racing domination. In 1991,the ground breaking, clean sheet of paper design all carbon fiber Formula 1 racer simply named “Nemesis” appeared for the first time. The plane was very aptly named, as it very immediately became the competitor’s Nemesis.
Webster defines Nemesis:
noun ( pl. -ses |-ˌsēz|) (usu. one's nemesis)
the inescapable or implacable agent of someone's or something's downfall.
Nemesis |ˈneməsis| Greek Mythology
a goddess usually portrayed as the agent of divine punishment for wrongdoing or presumption (hubris).
Nemesis® was fabricated, as Jon defines it, using “the leading edge of garage technology”. This means that the molds were all hand carved, using templates, and lots of sanding to get the desired shapes. The components of Nemesis® were also made using the same level of “technology” as they were all “wet bucket and brush” hand layups using a vacuum bag for consolidation pressure of the carbon plies. The parts were also simply cured in what was termed, the “Mojave-clave”. The “Mojave-clave” can best be described as a 120 degree hanger in mid summer Mojave CA.
Jon and Team Nemesis® won 9 consecutive Reno National Championships in the Formula1 Class. Starting in 1991, and continuing with 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999. During that amazing 9 year run at Reno, Nemesis® won 33 of the 36 Reno National Air Races it was in. 2 of the 3 “non wins” came in 1991 in its first 2 heat races. The 3rd came in a 1999 heat race when the team was experimenting with a different engine and propeller combination. After that second place finish, the team returned the configuration to the world beating baseline combination and won again setting records that still stand in it’s last appearance at Reno. Along the way, with the F1 Nemesis®, Jon and the Team racked up wins at every air racing venue in which they appeared. The list includes Vancouver Canada, Kingman AZ, Albuquerque N.M, Paso Robles CA., Lancaster CA., Laughlin NV., and Phoenix AZ. Everywhere “Nemesis” raced, it won decisively, setting records at every turn.
Following the plane’s retirement after the Reno Races in 1999, the Formula 1 Nemesis earned it’s position in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Today, the tiny world beater plane is resting quietly along with some the world’s most famous airplanes, the SR-71, “Enola Gay”, and the Space Shuttle “Enterprise”. The final record of the Formula1 Nemesis® was 47 wins out of a total of 50 races, prompting the Smithsonian to proclaim it the “the most successful aircraft in air racing history.”
Jon and the Team had originally started to design a Formula 1 “replacement” Nemesis® but after months of analysis could not come up with a configuration that was likely to be better. In 2000 the team decided to move forward with a radical new design to be flown in a brand new racing class. The “Sport Class” started in 1998 and was designed to showcase the capabilities of high performance homebuilt kit aircraft. It was dominated in the first few years by a Lancair/TCM factory sponsored Lancair IV. Then, the legendary Darryl Greenamyer began winning with his super modified Lancair Legacy.
As news of the new design began to spread, the minimal rules of the fledgling class were scrutinized by the class leaders. During construction of what would become the world record setting NemesisNXT® prototype, the class rules were updated to require that no new plane may be raced before the designers deliver a minimum of 5 kits to paying customers. The Team was forced to get into the kit business and formed multiple businesses across the country to support the effort. One of which was NmXT. NmXT, located in Moriarty NM, was started by Steve Hill, and team Electrical Engineer Dennis Walter. NmXT fabricated a portion of the composite parts for the NXT® kit, as well as sharing some of the design effort.
The new design was radical enough with its wicked shape but it was also the first homebuilt to be designed entirely in the computer, and thoroughly tested using the wind tunnel, computational fluid dynamics, and flow visualization. All molds were CNC machined resulting in the most accurate airframe ever produced. In traditional composite construction the designer has a certain goal in mind. Several steps are taken to produce the desired goal. The first step is an approximation of what the designer wants and each subsequent step is an approximation of an approximation. The final result will be smooth and pretty but it won’t represent exactly what the designer originally intended.
By machining all molds with extreme accuracy, the final result of the NXT® is just what Jon wanted and what was tested. Chief aerodynamicist Daren Kimura could provide accurate information regarding performance and stability. The Team even produced a flight simulator for the NXT® using open-source code and Jon was able to practice flying the new ship before the actual first flight.
By modeling every single part in the computer, Chief design engineer Kevin Luttge could confidently package the complicated systems into the airframe. The aircraft was produced without traditional drawings. CAD models of the myriad machined parts were emailed to machine shops and finished parts were shipped back. The welding jigs for the engine mount and landing gear were produced from the CAD data. The result was that all parts of the control system and complicated landing gear fit together the first time. Instead of receiving a set of traditional plans, each kit builder was provided with video showing how to perform each step in detail.
During the initial design phase of the NXT® project, the Team selected the propulsion package of the Lycoming Thunderbolt TSIO-540-NXT engine. The Lycoming engine was selected for its long history of power and reliability. The team’s engineering staff worked very closely with the engineers at Lycoming to configure the engine to meet packaging, and performance requirements. The Lycoming engine was then coupled to the Hartzel 3-blade scimitar performance racing propeller.
The NemesisNXT® debuted at the 2004 Reno Air Races. The team had high hopes for the new racer, however those hopes were dashed due to an un-commanded gear retraction upon landing after a qualifying run. The incident caused significant damage to the airframe forcing the withdrawal from the competition.
2005 brought the Team more bad luck. The NemesisNXT® was unable to perform to its potential primarily due to lingering issues related to the 2004 incident.
2006 brought the team and the NemesisNXT® their first of 4 consecutive Reno Sport/ Super Sport Class championships. At Reno in 2008, the “Pink Rocket” NXT® was the first kit built airplane to surpass the 400 MPH barrier on the Reno race course, with a blistering 409.297 MPH qualifying lap. The lap was so fast, that the Reno Air Race association, and the Sport Class required the fastest racers to compete on the larger race course used by the “Unlimited”, and “Jet” classes.
2009 was the most successful year of many successful years of racing for the Team. The Team closed out its pylon racing career with an impressive “Record a Day, and 2 on Sunday” performance that electrified Reno and Aviation world.
The Team and the “Pink Rocket” Thundefbolt powered NemesisNXT® set a new record each time it flew on the course.
9/15/2009 Nemesis® set a new Qualifying record blistering the course at 412.051 MPH
This record was faster than the Unlimited racers: Rare Bear, Argonaught,, Miss America, Sawbones, Merlin’s Magic, Bad Attitude, Lady Jo, Speedball Alice, Sparky, Polar Bear, Sneak Attack, American Beauty Parrothead, Race 24, Air Biscuit, and Galloping Ghost- 3 Sea Furies, 8 Mustangs, 2 P-40s, a Bearcat, a Corsair, a T28 and a Wildcat placing the NemesisNXT® # 10 on the unlimited speed chart and the 18th fastest qualifying aircraft on the field including the Jets!
9/16/2009 the NemesisNXT® beat it’s own heat race from 2008 to a new record of 393.282 MPH
9/17/2009 The Team surpassed the previous days heat race record with a race speed of 399..336 MPH
9/18/2009 Once again the Team raised the bar for heat race speed to a new record of 406.051 MPH. Surpassing the 400 MPH barrier in race conditions.
9/19/2009 The Pink Rocket NemesisNXT®, scorched the race course, and completed it total domination of the class with a new championship race record or 407.061 MPH. Also that day the team won a record 15th Reno National Championship to complete the ultimate racing career.
The Team, and the plane are currently gearing up for the next step in aviation speed record history. So just as the competition was able to breath a sigh of relief, the team will continue “Chasing the Dream, and Not the Competition” at the global level.
For more information and updates on schedule, and events please check the team’s web sit at www.nemesisnxt.com.
Chase the Dream...Not the Competition™
Nemesis Air Racing®
10645N. Oracle Rd., Ste 230
Oro Valley, AZ 85737
Nemesis® and NXT® are registered trademarks of Nemesis Air Racing and are used with permission only. Design Copyright © 2008 Nemesis Air Racing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.