INSIDE AIR RACING
Huntress III Returns to Reno . . . ."The Legend Lives On"
By Sue Petersen
Among the "missing" at Reno for the last two years, Huntress III, the beautiful P-51 owned by Robert Converse, will return to Reno 2000 with an engine overhaul and a well-known pilot at the controls.
The Huntress "pit" is humming with excitement and preparations for this years races. The former crew has been reassembled with Chuck Leonberg again at the lead as crew chief. Huntress III will be entered and raced by Bill "Tiger" Destefani, keeping Robert Converse "at bay" in the pits. Robert comments, "I just cannot have Chuck getting upset that I want to really get after it and race . . . after all the Huntress is there to continue the legend, not end it."
The Huntress will be flown for the first time in about a year the beginning of May. Robert started the engine last weekend and reports "it sounds the best it ever has!" This should come as no surprise since the engine has been rebuilt by "The Master of the Merlin", Dwight Thorn of Mystery Aire. With Chuck Leonberg and crew assisting, Dwight installed new heads and banks. Newly manufactured Alcoa pistons, using the latest high tech material, were also installed and are made to Dwight Thorn / Rolls Royce specifications. The added bonus of all new spark plugs was sponsored by Champion Aviation Products.
Robert acknowledges Chuck, his crew chief, for his dedication to the Huntress. While preparing the airplane for the Camarillo Airshow, Chuck decided to act on a premonition and checked the screens for metal pieces in the filters. Unfortunately, there was "lots and lots of metal". Robert said, "If Chuck had not had that feeling . . well the result would be a lot worse than merely replacing the pistons".
A combination of events has kept Huntress away from Reno for the last two years. . . . the first being Roberts transfer from southern California to the East Coast where he is based as Captain for U.S. Airways. The Huntress maintained her home on the West Coast near Tiger Destefanis "Strega". Robert was at the Reno races in 1999 (sans Huntress) helping Strega and Tiger in their bid to regain the championship.
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