July 28, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - What
started out as somewhat of a joke turned into a truly unique experience
for Tres Clements and Ryan Malherbe of San Luis Obispo, California.
Clements and Malherbe arrived at EAA
AirVenture Oshkosh 2009 with the rest of the 2009 AirVenture Cup racers in
Clements’ Pietenpol Air Camper.
“We were planning the flight here, and
someone joked about racing,” Clements said. “One thing led to another,
and here we are.”
“It was out of our way, but we’ve
flown so much it really didn’t matter,” he added.
The low-power, parasol-winged Pietenpol is not
what one could call a typical air racer.
“We thought about getting a whole bunch of
stickers and making it look like NASCAR,” Malherbe said. “But we were
afraid we would pull the paint off.”
However, they did follow a long air racing
tradition of special race preparations, preparations to get the maximum
performance out of the bird.
“We washed the bugs off the wings,”
A small cargo pod used to transport the duo’s
luggage was also removed and transported in one of the race support
Photo by Jeff Miller
Vernon Rogers and Rene Dugas with the Turbine Legend from Monroe,
and Tres Clements and Ryan Malherbe with their Pietenpol from San Luis
This year’s race started at Dayton Wright
Brothers Airport in Ohio and finished in Lomira, Wisconsin, with the
Pietenpol “racing” as an honorary participant in the Unlimited Class.
To contrast the performance of the Pietenpol
as an air racer, the overall race winner, a Lancair Legacy crewed by Lee
and Jay Behel, finished the course in 1:28:01. The Pietenpol flew the same
path, under the same conditions, in 6:13:00 for an average speed of 72.2
miles per hour.
Adding to the contrast with the Pietenpol was
the return this year of the Turbine Class after a short hiatus.
Rene Dugas and Vernon Rogers flew Dugas’
Turbine Legend turbine to an overall second-place finish.
According to race Chairman Eric Whyte, another
interesting aspect of this year’s race was that a fixed-gear Glasair,
piloted by Bruce Hammer, finished with a better time than several
Clements and Malherbe’s Pietenpol
adventure-to-AirVenture started with an idea to fly a Piper Cub from
“But the Pietenpol was cheaper,” Clements
said. So they left California on July 14.
Clements’ plane had not flown for four years
when he bought it. A fourmonth restoration effort was required before the
The only significant trouble with the plane
during the journey was a broken weld. While looking for some assistance,
they realized they were very close to longtime AirVenture Cup racer Dick
Keyt’s shop in Texas. Keyt, owner of the Polen Special racer, took care
of the repairs, and the pair pressed on.
Clements is just amazed at all the interest
and publicity the trip with Malherbe is generating.
“This is just a trip to Oshkosh. I thought
everyone does that,” he said.
“But it has been a great adventure, and we’ve
met a lot of great people.”