I was priviliged to have a moment with Bill “Tiger” Destefani, Pilot and Owner of the beautiful P-51D Mustang – Strega ( Race #7) prior to the weeks start of official Unlimited racing at the Reno National Championship Air Races.
The Strega crew wasn’t too busy with the aircraft – mostly polishing was all that was visibly required… The P-51D seemed to be running in tip -top shape. She proved her superiority with a qualifying time of over 484 mph. That’s flying a lap (8.433 miles) in about 1:03 (one minute and three seconds…whew!).
Tiger said, “If it runs, it will win.” And win she did – piloted by the amazing Steve Hinton Jr.
Little did the pilots and fans know, the final race would really be held on Saturday. The Reno weather didn’t cooperate for the Sunday afternoon race. The desert winds were howling though the grandstands and pits, gusting at over 29 mph – with 30 mph being the limit for air traffic safety and race cancellation.
Personally I think all the pilots hold off until the last day to realize the true limit of the (current) engines. If the machines are running well leading up to the final race, I think it’s a judgement call between the Owner, Pilot and Crew Chief that determine the final race speed.
I surmise that if all are in agreement, the pilot will open it up and see what kind of performance he or she can finesse from the finely tuned equipment. ….At least that’s what I read between the lines when I talked with Tiger.
Even though it was a huge disappointment for all the race fans who live and love the final race day Unlimited event, I’ll bet the disappointments for all the pilots and crews who wanted to give it their all for the last event, were immeasurable.
Tiger has a great aircraft that has been performing well for several years now. It’s been a mesmerizing last two years watching Stevie Hinton gain confidence, race faster and intrigue a new generation of aviation enthusiasts.
As it seems with all business ventures, a successful outcome starts from the top. Leadership that provides respect, room to learn and grow always makes for happier, more productive, winning teams.
Speaking for race fans throughout the world, thanks for creating an awesome Strega Unlimited Race Team Mr. Destefani, we’re all rooting for another successful race year in 2011!
Good Luck and God’s Speed~