The 1936 National Air Races were held in Los Angeles at the site that is now Los Angeles International Airport. The race did not start particularly well - many participants had to fly east for the start of the Bendix Trophy Race which would be departing Floyd Bennett Field, New York, on 4 September. In Los Angeles, Roscoe Turner had his Wedell Williams racer all set to go and departed for New York but apparently ran into some engine problems and made a forced landing near Gallup, New Mexico, but the ground surface was extremely rough and the Wedell broke in two. Out of the race, Roscoe walked away with a few scratches and bruises.
Eight racers left the New York airport and Joe Jacobsen was doing quite well in his big Northrup Gamma but high over Stafford, Kansas, the racer unexpectedly exploded. Fortunately, Jacobsen was blown out of the airplane and, after gathering his wits, pulled his rip cord and floated down to a safe landing. Popular Bennie Howard was flying with his wife Maxine in his very fast Mr. Mulligan. Near Crown Point, New Mexico, the propeller tore away from the engine and Bennie managed a crash landing but both were badly injured. Lee Miles was piloting the big Granville Brothers QED but was forced down with mechanical problems and made a safe landing. And so it went. When the first racer crossed the Los Angeles finishing line, it was Blanche Noyes and copilot Louise Thaden in a Beech Staggerwing. They finished at 165.3 mph for the all time slow speed in the cross-country dash.
Back in Los Angeles, Rudy Kling had entered his racer in both the Greve Trophy Race and the Thompson Trophy Race and was making sure the plane was ready to go. The plane Rudy was flying had been built by Keith Rider in 1931 and named San Francisco which reflected the fact that it had been built for the San Francisco Racing Group. Powered by a Menasco Special C6 that could crank out 260-horsepower, the R- spanned 18 feet 10 inches and had a length of 19 feet.
Entered in the 1931 National Air Races, the R-1 (registered NR51Y) was flown by Ray Moore and he did very well by winning the 800-cubic-inch race at 185.097 mph while gaining a second in the 1000-cubic-inch race at 177.089 mph - not bad for a first outing. For 1932, Moore was once again at the controls and won the Phillips Trophy Race at 182.22 mph while gaining a seventh at 237.74 mph in the Shell Speed Dash. Moore entered the Thompson but had to drop out with mechanical problems on the second lap.
For 1933, Steve Wittman piloted the R-1 at the International Air Races and managed a fourth place finish at 185.37 mph in the 550-cubic-inch race. For the National Air Races, Moore was back in the cockpit and hit 231.70 mph in the Shell Speed Dash.
For 1934, the racer was renamed San Franciscan and flown at Cleveland by Roger Don Rae who did 235.34 mph in the Shell Speed Dash which was good for a third place. In the Thompson, Roger hit 205.36 mph which got a third place trophy. Roger also flew the R-1 at the 1936 Cleveland event and picked up a second in the Greve Trophy Race at 210.13 mph and a third in the Thompson at 213.94 mph.
For 1936, Rudy Kling was the pilot and the aircraft had been renamed Suzy. Kling had made sure the Menasco was running at peak power and he was confident of placing high in several of the events held at the Los Angeles field. Entering in the Greve event, Rudy was facing some tough competition in the form of Michel Detroyat who had brought the elegant and potent Caudron C-460 racer from France - this was the first foreign pure racing aircraft to participate in an American event since the 1912 Bennett Cup. In the Greve, Detroyat immediately assumed the lead and Rudy wanted to save his engine for the big Thompson event so he and Suzy finished fourth at 218.3 mph which was certainly respectable. Later, he recalled, "I was flying well under top speed and sweeping a little wide on the turns when something shot by above and inside me just as I was rounding the home pylon on the fourth lap. It was Detroyat going by me as though I was tied and cutting in close to the pylon much in the same style Don Rae uses. I wondered what would happen if I swept out just as he swept in. Hayseed salad with French dressing!"
After receiving the checkered flag, the racers pulled up and prepared for landing. Joe Jacobson, who finished fifth in the Howard Mike racer, bounced his plane a couple of times on landing and then lost control. The racer went up on its nose and then turned over. The plane was not badly damaged and Joe scrambled to safety. Numerous people and cars had pulled out onto the field even though officials were trying to stop them. Roger Don Rae made a safe landing by threading his racer between Mike and the home pylon. Rudy had watched this and decided to do the same thing but a truck pulled out in front of him and he swerved but hit a car - demolishing the car and the race plane at the same time in a spectacular accident. Rescue personnel were immediately on hand and pulled a dazed and bleeding Rudy from the wreckage of Suzy. Not badly injured, Rudy would go on to fly again but the same could not be said for Suzy.