The Bristol 72 Racer was a low wing monoplane with a retractable undercarriage, designed by Wilfrid Thomas Reid and was primarily built to demonstrate the capabilities of the Bristol Jupiter engine.
Prior to its design, Frank Barnwell (Head of Design at Bristol Aeroplane Company) had always rejected the proposal claiming that the Bristol Bullet fulfilled the criteria. However, when Barnwell left the company in 1921 work started immediately on a design to totally enclose the engine with an order for a single aircraft being placed on the factory in January 1922.
The large circular section monocoque fuselage was almost the shape of a modern rugby ball with its nose fairing into its Jupiter radial engine, which was fitted with a large streamlined prop spinner. Unusual for the period, it was fitted with a retractable undercarriage operated by a handcrank and pulley chains. The fuselage featured a number of ducts to channel air into the 480 hp radial engine.
Only one Bristol Racer (G-EBDR) was built, flying in July 1922 in the hands of Bristol Aeroplane Chief Test Pilot Cyril Unwins. The flight was not without its issues as the aircraft suffered from several design misfortunes, including over-size ailerons that caused torsional distortion of the wings on the first flight.
Modifications were made although its propeller spinner disintegrated on the second flight damaging the port wing. The cause was thought to be the weight of the paint used on the spinner (the first flight being with an unpainted version).
A third flight was without any form of spinner identified that there was still issues with the ailerons.
The aircraft was entered for the 1922 Coupe Deutsch de la Meurthe competition and was allocated the racing number 10 although it was not successfully developed in time to actually compete in the race.
In all, the Racer made only seven flights and, despite its advanced features, its performance was rather disappointing. The aircraft was scrapped in 1924.
|Powerplant||One 480 hp Bristol Jupiter IV|
|Span||25 ft 2 in|
|Maximum Speed||220 mph (estimated)|
One only, G-EBDR