I guess you are correct about the Data plate,I did think it strange that a racing P51 would have a fixed tail wheel.....extra drag...I was just quoting what this other person stated after seeing the photo.
If the photo of the plane pointed down just before impact is real I will be very surprised. If you look at other photos of this plane in flight (on the pilots web site, for example) in EVERY photo you can see the pilot's helmet. Even if he had a heart attack and died he would be leaning up against the glass. There is nowhere for him to be. Plus to get this angle the photographer would have to have been far away from the stands with a very powerful telephoto lens. It is perfectly from the side with no blur whatsoever. He probably could not have gotten the other photo of the plane upside down from the same location. I also searched for "Times Valley Union" and did not find any news organization with Tim O'Brien as a photographer.
Although the photo has all the appearances of having been altered, (initially I thought it was) it has been discussed widely on other forums and it is generally accepted as genuine. In other views looking down into the cockpit the pilot's white helmet can be seen. Recent reports are indicating that the pitch-up was in excess of 20G (!). Even if that is grossly exaggerated, it may account for the apparent absence of a pilot in the photo in question. As for the photographer, not everyone with a camera works for a newspaper.
Maybe if they did a search with the newspapers correct name they would get more hits. It's Grass Valley Union not Times Valley Union. And there must be at least dozen posts and blogs out there describing the 1998 "Voodoo" P51 incident where the pilot, Bob Hannah, blacked out after a trim tab failure. As he put it when he came to his head was pinned to floor and it took a lot of effort to get back upright. I'm sure it's probably an exaggeration but in the context of the photo it makes sense.
I would guess that for efficiency they race with an aft C of G, so that the net lift on the tailplane is upwards. That would mean that if trimmed for S&L, loss of a trim tab would result in a sudden and severe nose up trim change. But I am still puzzled why it then rolled on its back before pulling through.
11 deceased.....that's just awful, we humans risk it all at times without fully understanding the risks, such is aviation. It wouldn't take much of a control stick deflection to roll the machine at those speeds.I'd say it's a fair bet that the pilot was in some way incapacitated as one would need to be 100% alert & in control of such a high performance beast during the whole of the event. Possible outcome: Trim tab failure, sudden movement by way of excessive G's created by that failure that caught the experienced pilot unawares inhibiting his abilities momentarily resulting in a few seconds of uncontrolled flight.
I now wonder what extra safety measures will be put in place for future shows? Can't bring those deceased back but perhaps we can learn from this tragic event so their lives are not entirely wasted.