AIR RACES: World’s fastest motorsport takes flight in Reno |

AIR RACES: World’s fastest motorsport takes flight in Reno

Tim O’Brien
Special to The Union

The World’s fastest motorsport along with thrilling air shows takes flight this week as the 56th annual STIHL National Championship Air Races gets underway north of Reno.

One hundred twenty four planes entered in six racing classes began speed qualifications on Monday as pilots prepare to challenge defending champions around the pylons through the weekend.

The popular Unlimited Class is fielding 12 entrants comprised of stock and modified World War II fighters including the P-51D Mustang, Hawker Sea Fury and a vintage Bell P-63 Kingcobra.

The Sport Class has 36 entrants of performance kit built planes that saw last years Gold Champion Andrew Findlay of McCall, Idaho thrust his Lancair racer at a howling 402.716 mph average lap speed victory.

The Formula One Class has 25 entrants with expected speeds close to 250 mph.

The Biplane Class numbers 18 qualifiers with seasoned pilots dueling in tight formations at around 220 mph.

The AT-6 Class of stock World War Two trainers with 15 entered contenders promises intense competition, often times resulting in a photo finish at speeds over 250 mph.

Fourteen Jet Class entries include 1960s vintage L-29, L-39, Jet Provost trainers and a rare DeHavilland Vampire with Gold race speeds exceeding the 500 mph mark.

New to Reno this year will be the STOL Drag Racing Demonstration, set to make its debut in what organizers hope becomes an all-new racing class in the future.

“It’s like when car drag racing meets aviation and it’s going to bring a whole new energy to the races.” said Kevin Quinn, president and founder of STOL Drag.

Along with racing, the Reno-Stead Airport will host the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, world-class aerobatics with Michael Wiskus in the Lucas Oil Airshows Pitts Biplane, and the VFA-122 FA-18E Super Hornet Demonstration. In addition, the Commemorative Air Force Southern California Squadron will provide a spectacular aerial demonstration of fighter and bomber aircraft featuring a B-25 Mitchell, F8F-2 Bearcat, F6F Hellcat and Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero in mock dogfights and aerobatics in honor of patriotism and celebration of the 75th anniversary of World War II.

Scores of interactive displays, vendors and activities on the ground will round out the daily events.

The 56th annual STIHL National Championship Air Races and Show is being held Wednesday through Sunday at the Reno-Stead Airport located 10 miles north of Reno. General and reserved seating tickets can be purchased online or at the gate. For official qualifying times, race results and more information, visit

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