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~
Reno National Championship Air Races
Thursday September 16, 2010
It’s a great day at the races! The weather is beautiful, a sunny 83 degrees and the sky has a few clouds for all the photographers. The crowds are gathering and the races have begun officially.
The morning started with Formula 1 and Bi-Planes running two heats each and was followed by my favorites, the T6 Silver Heat. All six of the T-6 Silver racers finished, with only Race 90 – Pilot Lee Oman flying Undecided beating his posted qualification speed (222.021 mph) by mph 0.233 mph. They may be holding back to keep the engines in shape for the races to come this weekend.
The T-6 Gold race, Heat 1 had the leading contender Pilot Nick Macy flying Six Cat post a DNF. Nick called a mayday and landed safely on runway 14 with a possible oil leak and power failure. Hard to determine the severity of the mechanical challenge with Nick’s easy going personality…
I had the privilege of interviewing Steve Hinton Jr. today, Pilot of Race 7 Strega. He looked great, had lots to say and is really looking forward to the big race on Sunday. His piercing blue – green eyes are stunning – they reflect an old soul in contrast to his 23 year old body.
What grace and poise this man possesses – he’s smart, quiet and confident and has a something beyond a gift for flying. He’s had the stewardship of many great flyers, like his father Steve Hinton Sr., who has a race history at Reno and now flies the Pace Plane for the Unlimited Class. Over the last few years Stevo’s worked his way up the ranks under Owner Tiger Destefani’s tutelage and has a comprehensive understanding of the beautiful P-51D. This truly is a man who was born to race and a man who will inspire many generations of aviation devotees.