Rocket Racing Team Withdraws from League
A poster for Leading Edge, the first team to join the Rocket Racing League. F-16 pilots Robert 'Bobaloo' Rickham and Don 'Dagger' Grantham, Jr. founded the Leading Edge Rocket Racing team in early 2006.
Credit: RRL/Leading Edge.

This story was updated at 5:03 p.m. EDT.

The first team to join the growing Rocket Racing League (RRL) has pulled out of the high-flying venture, citing fundamental differences.

The Leading Edge Rocket Racing team announced its intent to withdraw from the nascent league late Friday and was due to formally notify its board of directors earlier today.

"After working with [the] Rocket Racing League for the past 17 months, we have concluded that our vision, business practices, and communications standards are incompatible with those of the league," Robert Rickard, Leading Edge president and CEO, said in a statement. "We had very high hopes for this enterprise and tried very hard to find a common way forward."

Formed in 2005 by Ansari X Prize founder Peter Diamandis and auto racing team veteran Granger Whitelaw, the Rocket Racing League is intended to provide NASCAR-like races in the skies above Las Cruces, New Mexico using piloted Mark 1 X-Racer rockets. The rocket racers are based on the EZ-Rocket design developed by the firm XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California and are slated to make their competitive debut later this year.

Rickard and Don "Dagger" Grantham, both of Phoenix, Arizona, announced their Leading Edge team in January 2006. Both men are experienced pilots and fly F-16 jets for the U.S. Air Force reserves.

"There hasn't been a working relationship between our company and the RRL for some time now," Grantham said in the statement. "This announcement makes it official so we can move on."

Whitelaw, who serves as president of the Rocket Racing League, told SPACE.com Monday that teams will expectedly come and go as the league develops, though all must meet baseline requirements.

"They are welcome to race in the league when they are properly structured, funded and in accordance with our rules and regulations," Whitelaw said of the Leading Edge team.

The RRL has two other teams that include the Bridestine Rocket Racing Team led by former U.S. Navy pilot Jim Bridestine, as well as the New Mexico-based Santa Fe Racing team founded by Albuquerque land developer Marc Cumbow and his father Edward, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot.

The league also has its own house rocket, the Thunderhawk X-Racer.