STEAD, Nev. (KOLO) It is the fastest motorsport in the world, and the National Championship Air Races is the only place where you can watch Warbirds race side by side.
Though ‘national’ is in its name, the event, which is in its 55th year, draws international attention.
Graeme Frew is the pilot and owner of a Russian Yakovlev 3M called ‘Full Noise’. This will be his second year competing in the event.
“We wanted to bring the airplane back because it had a Reno air race history and we wanted to show the world what Kiwis can do when we restore an airplane,” he said.
Most pilots fly their planes in, but Frew is from New Zealand- a nearly 7,000-mile trip. He took a much different approach to get his plane here. More than a month before the races, Frew and his team disassembled ‘Full Noise’, packed it in a container, and shipped it to the United States.
“Strap it all in securely and then wait nervously for five weeks until we open the box again,” Frew said.
It’s not simple, and there’s always a risk the plane could get damaged in transport. But Frew says it was the most efficient way to get the plane here and the race is worth the effort.
“It’s game on,” he said. “W’re here to race hard, and we’re here to do the best we can and represent New Zealand at the highest level of motorsport. It’s addictive so that you feel like you want to ship your airplane halfway across the world and do it again.”
This year, there will be 15 Warbirds racing in the Unlimited Class- fewer than last year. And air race fans will notice the top two race planes will be missing.
“Voodoo and Strega will not be here this year,” Tony Logoteta, COO for the Reno Air Race Association, said.
The two planes are known for battling it out for first and second every year all while leaving every other plane in the Unlimited Class in the dust.
“Last year was one of the most amazing races between the top two that we’ve seen in a long time,” Logoteta said. “Voodoo and Strega took it down to the wire.”
Frew says it’s a shame the two planes won’t be competing, but this does open up the field to a new top competitor.
“I was in the gold final last year and [Voodoo and Strega] went past me like I was standing still those two,” Frew said. “It was an amazing experience. Those guys flew them right to the limits. So it’s a shame those guys aren’t here, but what it’s done is it’s made about 4 other aircraft capable of winning the gold.”
Logoteta says race fans should keep an eye on Dreadnought, Miss America, Goldfinger, and Sawbones. He expects any one of those will be crowned the next champion of the Unlimited Class.
The National Championship Air Races wraps up Sunday.