Robert “Hoot” Gibson Wins Unlimited Class at Reno

Robert “Hoot” Gibson (Photo by Marilyn Newton)

Will Steven Hinton win his seventh straight Unlimited Class Gold? That was the big question at the 52nd National Championship Air Races held September 16-20 at Reno Stead Airport in Reno, Nevada.

Hinton, flying Voodoo, a P-51 Mustang, screamed around the pylons with Robert "Hoot" Gibson racing Strega, also a P-51D. The suspense was building on Saturday when Strega blew the doors off of Voodoo, but Sunday was another day. It just wasn't Hinton and Voodoo's day.

Strega was first around the first turn, but Voodoo was in close pursuit. Strega opened up the lead, and Voodoo pulled out of the race with a problem, leaving Strega the clear winner. Fans howled in delight at Strega's good fortune, but everyone was relieved that Voodoo landed safely.

Other races were just as exciting. Pete Zaccagnino brought in the Jet Class Gold flying Vampire, while John Parker in BlueThunder II grabbed the Sport Class Gold. The T-6 Gold went to Dennis Buehn in Midnight Miss III. The T-6 Class saw Chris LeFave take home the Bronze title in Midnight Express, notable because this is only his second time racing at Reno. Last year LeFave was Rookie of the Year; this year he's in the winner's circle. Keep your eye on this talented racer as he moves up the air race ladder. Steve Senegal in Endeavor earned the Gold in Formula One and Tom Aberle took home the Biplane Class Gold for an amazing tenth time duking it out with tough competitors in his Phantom racer.

The airshow was a hit with the fans, featuring the breathtaking skills of the Breitling Jet Demo and the pyro-laced performance of Tora, Tora, Tora! Other performers added their expertise and showmanship to the program. The Heritage Flight P-51 and F-16 were a highlight of the show, honoring those who have served in the United States Air Force and educating the public about its importance.

While the suspense of this year's race is over, excitement is building for 2016 — will Steven Hinton take back the Unlimited Gold? Tune in again next year, or better yet, go to the Reno Air Races and experience the incredible sounds and sights found only in the Valley of Speed.


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