This article was inspired by a recent stunt organized by FortyOneSix.com ahead of this weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, where a Range Rover Sport on the occasion of its unveiling went head-to-head against a Spitfire TR 9.
The Range Rover Sport’s 510-horsepower supercharged V8 engine was pitted against the Spitfire’s 1,750-hp supercharged V12. The aircraft in this video, SM520 started life as a Spitfire HF IXe high-level fighter in November 1944. In 1948 it was sold to the South African Air Force and eventually became one of several Spitfires lying derelict in a metal scrapyard at Maitland, Cape Town. It was rescued in 1981 and in 2002 was converted into a replica of a TR-9 two-seat trainer, of which a handful were delivered to the Royal Netherlands Air Force after the Second World War.
The Spitfire was flown by Matt Jones of the Boultbee Flight Academy in Chichester, which is where SM520 is now based, while Jaguar Land Rover chief vehicle integrity engineer Mike Cross was at the wheel of the Range Rover Sport, a five-litre supercharged V8 with 375kW on tap.
The race between an airplane and a car or motorcycle is something that has been done since the first days of aviation. It is believed that the first race between an airplane and a car was organized in 1910.
A 1910 issue of Flight Magazine described the race thusly: “During the three-day motor ace meeting on the Atlanta, Ga. Speedway was held on May 5th, 6th, and 7th 1910 some diversion to ordinary car racing was provided in the form of some exhibition flights by Mr. Charles K. Hamilton with his biplane. What purports to be the first flyer versus automobile race took place on one of the days when Hamilton raced Kjelson, on a sport car for 4 miles, or twice around the track. The airman kept close to the ground and not more than a few feet separated the car and flyer from any part of the distance. The airplane won in the final stretch by a few feet, the time for the 4 miles being 5 minutes, and 6 seconds. Previously Hamilton had made one circuit (2 miles) in 2 minutes.”
On October 25, 2004, the Italian Air Force organized a historic challenge between the F-104S ASA-M 9-99/MM6930 special color and the Ducati 999 Factory, winner of the 2004 Superbike World Championship. It was organized by Col. Miniscalco, then Commander of Grazzanise AFB, southern Italy, home of the ITAF 9° Stormo (9th Wing), and Roberto Ungaro, Editor in Chief of the Italian magazine “Motociclismo”. This challenge should have taken place in September 2003, after the Italian Air Force unveiled the Starfighter with a special Ducati-style livery, but it has been postponed several times, both for the tragic events in Nassirya and for Ducati’s commitments in the championship. The F-104 was flown by expert pilot Maj. Aurelio “Alì” Covotta, while the motorcycle was driven by Giulio “Ringhio” Rangheri, a tester for the magazine.
Fast-forwarding a few years and we get to probably one of the most famous ‘competitions’ between an airplane and an airplane. On November 21, 1981, over the runway of the Istrana-Treviso Air Base, a unique race took place: the fastest car in Formula 1 of the 1981 season, and the fastest fighter of Italian Air Force, the F-104. The car was driven by mighty Canadian F-1 driver Gilles Villeneuve who won the match vs the Starfighter.
Some years later on September 17, 1989, the Italian Air Force decided to give as a gift an F-104G painted in Ferrari team red to commemorate the race. This Starfighter had the fuselage numbers 4-27. The number 4 was for 4th Wing and 27 was the race number of Villeneuve´s F-1 Ferrari. Now this F-104 G rests in Fiorano autodrome, owned by Ferrari.
The picture we have chosen to open the article with portraits an Italian Air Force F-104 was painted with the red, white and black colors of the 10° Gruppo and boasted a flashy “999″ in homage to the 9° Stormo and to celebrate the twinning of the squadron with the Ducati Racing Team. The “999” is a famous model name of Ducatti used by the Italian Racing Team which sports a similar color scheme to the one devised for the special Starfighter. The specially painted aircraft was then raced against a Ducati 999 in an event held in Grazzanise on Oct. 14, 2004.
Avid Top Gear fans may well remember the time Richard Hammond raced the RAF in a Bugatti Veyron. Well, technology has moved on a little since then, and Paddy McGuinness fancied a rematch in the super-slippery, 250mph McLaren Speedtail, and the RAF in their 1200mph F-35.