Collection Item Summary:
The most successful aircraft in air racing history, Nemesis dominated its competition, winning 45 of its 48 contests from 1991 until its retirement in 1999. Flown by pilot and designer Jon Sharp, it won nine consecutive Reno Gold National Championships and 16 world speed records for its class.
Nemesis was the International Formula One points champion every year from 1994 to 1998. In 1991 it won the George Owl Trophy for design excellence. In 1993, '96, and '98, it won the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale's Louis Blèriot Medal for the greatest achievement in speed. In 1993, '94, '95, and '99, Nemesis won the Pulitzer Trophy for air racing speed records. The airplane is built of pressure-molded graphite epoxy foam core sandwich.
Collection Item Long Description:
The most successful aircraft in air racing history, Nemesis dominated its competition winning 45 of its 48 contests from 1991 until its retirement in 1999. Flown by pilot and designer Jon Sharp, it won nine consecutive Reno Gold National Championships and 16 world speed records for its class including the 3 km mark of 290.08 mph and the 15 km mark of 282.58 mph set in 1998. Nemesis was the International Formula One points champion for 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 1998, at an average speed 244.68 mph. In 1993, 1996, and 1998 it won the Louis Blèriot Medal of the FAI for the greatest achievement in speed. In 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1999, Nemesis won the Pulitzer Trophy for air racing speed records.
Nemesis is a small mid wing, single-seat tractor monoplane with fixed landing gear designed and built in 1991 by Jon Sharp, Cory Bird, Dan Bond, and Steve Ericson. The aircraft is built of pressure molded graphite epoxy foam core sandwich and is powered by a single Continental O-200, 100 horsepower air-cooled engine. Nemesis incorporated numerous firsts in the Formula 1 class. It was the first in history to be built entirely of tooled, pressure molded, carbon reinforced plastics; the first with a carbon fiber roll over structure; and the first to use a custom designed natural laminar flow wing. It is the first to be entirely computer lofted. Nemesis also pioneered the use of a side stick with a full ball bearing control system as well as an on board data acquisition system and a titanium firewall. It is the first racer with a center section containing the fuselage with an integral wing, landing gear, and wheel pants. These innovations earned the team the 1991 George Owl Trophy, awarded for design excellence.
With Jon Sharp at the controls, Nemesis won the first competition in which it was entered, the Gold Race at Reno, Nevada. It was the first aircraft since the inaugural 1947 Goodyear event to do so. Through 1996, Nemesis won an astonishing 30 consecutive races while setting two national qualifying records and Nemesis also set new world speed records for class C-la (Group 1) aircraft on a 3 kilometer course August 1993 at 277.26 mph and 283.75 mph three years later.
Formula One began as an idea in the late 1930s to find a relatively inexpensive but highly competitive form of air racing. Plans for such a race series began in earnest after the conclusion of World War II when the Professional Race Pilots Association drafted a proposal calling for a class of aircraft to be built around existing 190 cubic inch engines. With the approval of the National Aeronautic Association’s Contest Board the new racing series was born. In the summer of 1947, the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation agreed to sponsor three annual trophy competitions at the National Air Races. By the summer of 1947, 21 new diminutive pure racing aircraft were ready to compete. The racing was an immediate success as it proved highly competitive, inexpensive, and above all, safe. It has remained so to this day.
In 1968 the engine specification was increased to 200 cubic inches as the preferred Continental C-85 engine went out of production. The new powerplants were limited to 100 horsepower and thus Formula One was officially born. Little has changed in the rules since but improvements in design and materials have enabled these tiny aircraft – particularly Nemesis - to fly over 100 miles per hour faster than the first generation of midget racers.
Nemesis was retired in 1999 and donated to the National Air and Space Museum. It is on display at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport.
National Air and Space Museum
Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
Gift of Jon and Patricia Sharp
- Wingspan: 6.25 m (20 ft 6 in)
- Length: 5.6 m (18 ft 6 in)
- Height 2.2 meters (7 feet 5 inches)
- Weight, gross: 236 kg (520 lb)
- Top speed: 467 km/h (290 mph)
- Engine: Continental O-200 air-cooled engine, 100 hp
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