Strega wins Reno
Steve Hinton Junior’s dominance of the world’s fastest motorsport ended on the last lap of the 54th Annual Reno National Championship Air Races at Stead Field, Nevada on 17 September, 2017. Hinton was the youngest Unlimited National Air Racing champion ever when he claimed his first title in 2009. He won seven of the eight subsequent championships, initially flying Bill ‘Tiger’ Destefani’s P-51D Mustang Strega before switching to the Voodoo, LLC P-51D Mustang Voodoo in 2013 when Destefani retired (temporarily as it turned out) Strega from competition.
After setting a new World Air Speed Record for piston-engined aircraft on 2 September, it was originally expected that the record-setting Mustang would only show up at Reno for static display. Nevertheless, Voodoo did wind up competing, although the dominant competitor this time around turned out to be ex-navy fighter pilot James Consalvi in Strega. Consalvi won with a speed of 484.724 mph and led every Unlimited Heat Race during the week. Hinton stayed close in second-place until the start of Sunday’s final Unlimited Gold Race when he surprised Consalvi by surging ahead and holding off his repeated challenges until the last of the race’s eight laps. Having lapped the rest of the field (four Sea Furies and a Yak-3m), both Mustangs encountered the last two competitors for a second time on the final lap. In the process of lapping one of them again, Consalvi managed to get a slight edge on Hinton and keep him at bay to the finish line. Consalvi averaged 481.34 mph on his way to victory, while Hinton averaged 480.744 mph in his effort. The two’s overall times were 7:49:774 and 7:50:356, respectively.
This was probably the most competitive Unlimited Gold Race at Reno in decades and, for Voodoo, a racing swansong but certainly not the end of its flying days: further world speed record attempts are in prospect. Other Reno winners included Rick Vandam whose L-39 American Spirit topped the Gold Jet class and John Lohmar, pilot of the fastest T-6.
Strega triumphed narrowly over piston engine speed record holder Voodoo