By Staff

Felipe Giaffone and Mike Keenum made a takeoff of ?Trading Spaces? this week. Takeoff is the optimum word.

Giaffone, driver of the No. 24 Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry in the IRL IndyCar Series, was Keenum?s passenger in a Hawker Sea Fury airplane appropriately named Riff Raff over Kankakee, Ill., on Sept. 8. The next day, Keenum was the passenger in an Indy Racing Experience two-seater on the high-banked 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway oval.

?It was absolutely awesome,? Giaffone said. ?But the G forces are completely different. You couldn?t drive with that lightheaded feeling. We?re used to the pull from the side, and this was a totally different feeling.?

?You?d get used to it,? Keenum reassured him. ?As a pilot, I don?t notice any of it at all anymore.?

Riff Raff was built in England during the early 1950s for the Royal Air Force. It was modified in 1992 and will again compete in the unlimited class of the Reno Air Races, the pre-eminent national air championships that will be held next week in Reno, Nev. The plane reaches race speeds of more than 425 mph on a course 50 feet above the ground, negotiating corner pylons almost 80 feet tall.

Powered by 18 pistons (150 horsepower per piston) team manager Ray Studniardz half-jokingly commented the pistons were roughly the size of an IndyCar Series engine. Studniardz works most race weekends with the Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team.

Former NASA Shuttle commander ?Hoot? Gibson flies the plane in competition.

Keenum, who served in the Vietnam War as a crew chief on F105s and has been a pilot since 1982, treated Giaffone to a pass over Chicagoland Speedway. They made a low pass over the runway before landing, a maneuver which caused Giaffone to ask, ?How far off the ground were we really??

?I thought we were landing, but then the speed was too fast and we never really were in a position to touch down. And then the runway was gone.?

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