Reno, Nev. – With the kickoff of the STIHL National Championship Air Races less than two weeks away, the historic aviation event released its complete list of pilots and planes scheduled to compete for Air Racing gold. The lineup features nearly 120 pilots and planes and is headlined by a highly anticipated rivalry that pits two of the winningest Unlimited pilots in Air Race history head-to-head in the event’s most recognizable racing class. Coming out of retirement in an effort to regain Air Racing gold is famed racer and seven-time Unlimited Gold Champion Bill “Tiger” Destefani, racing his wildly popular P-51 Mustang “Strega.” This marks the first time that Destefani will race against five-time reigning champion, 26-year-old Steve Hinton, who won his first four national championships flying “Strega” as a part of Tiger’s racing team. Hinton now flies an equally popular and well-recognized P-51 Mustang, “Voodoo.” The event takes place Sept. 10 -14 at the Reno-Stead Airfield and tickets are on sale now.
“We couldn’t be more excited by the incredible lineup of racers and planes, in addition to the world class group of performers, we have scheduled for this year’s event,” said Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association. “To have Tiger and Steve headlining our Unlimited Division is the equivalent of some of the top rivalries in sports and we expect to see some pretty intense and awesome racing.”
In addition to Hinton and Destefani, the lineup also includes the return of perennial fan favorites “Rare Bear,” “Czech Mate,” “Dreadnought” and more. Former space shuttle commander Robert “Hoot” Gibson and the Hawker Sea Fury “232” and Thom Richard flying the Breitling-sponsored “Precious Metal” will also be competing in the Unlimited Class trying to play spoiler to the favorites Hinton and Destefani. All told, there are 15 planes scheduled to compete in this year’s Unlimited Class. Another notable highlight is a record-setting 39 planes in the Sport Class. For a complete list of registered pilots, visit www.airrace.org.
“Overall, this is arguably one of the most competitive fields in the history of the STIHL National Championship Air Races and it features some extremely intriguing storylines that we’ve never really had before,” said Major. “Truly, with such a stacked racing field, our fans are in for an unforgettable experience.”
In addition to six classes of some of the most experienced and talented racers flying in the “World’s Fastest Motorsport,” this year, attendees can expect thrilling entertainment including the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team, the L-39 Patriot Jet Team, aerobatic prodigy Melissa Pemberton, Breitling stunt pilot and world aerobatic champion David Martin, the Small Unmanned Aerial Systems Challenge and the introduction of a brand new entertainment area called “The Drone Zone,” Mark Peterson and his Alpha Jet, the famed John Klatt Airshows team featuring the Jack Link’s Jet Waco “Screamin’ Sasquatch,” and a bevy of individual air performances from some of today’s most talented aerial stunt pilots.
The 51st annual National Championship Air Races is the world’s premier air racing event. The races kick off Wednesday, Sept. 10, and will continue through Sunday, Sept. 14, at the Reno-Stead Airport. Tickets for the show are available by phone at 775-972-6663 or online at www.airrace.org. For more information on the STIHL National Championship Air Races, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.