was the word today from an amazed Bill
"Tiger" Destefani in response to a
rumor that he would step down this year as pilot of his
championship wining race plane "Strega"
"I dont know
where these guys get this stuff" said Tiger
in a phone conversation with us today. "It
strikes me funny that people come up with some of
the bullshit they come up with," added the
championship winning air race pilot.
This put to rest any
speculation about this year but Tiger did drop a
bomb of another color, telling us that this would
be his last year flying Strega at Reno in
on that for many years, going to 2000. I thank
the lord Ive made it that long. Whether or
not Im going to campaign the airplane after
that... that remains to be seen but this is my
last year of flying"
We worked closely with
Bob Hannah during the very difficult process of
his retirement from Air Racing last year. It is
clear when speaking with a born racer, which both
of these men are... leaving this sport is not an
easy thing for them..
"Its hard to
quit, but sometimes you just have to know when
and I think its about that time."
There has also been
speculation about the engine being ready in time
for Reno this year. We asked Tiger how this is
coming along for Strega
asked Dwight about when its going to be
ready." Adding, "It doesnt make
much difference, we can get it back two days
before its time to go and its no
problem. The airplanes basically ready to
go except for the engine and that doesnt
take very long to put it in."
We asked Tiger just how
much work was involved after the installation
process, certainly not just a "plug it in
and go?" process.
probably do a little test work with it...
were plenty far away yet. [from Reno]"
Though we were saddened
to hear this would be the last year to see Tiger
in competition, it was certainly a relief to be
able to put the "no Tiger this year"
rumor to bed... But will this be the last year of
competition for Strega?
definitely be flying it this year and its
definitely my last year to be in the chair."
Tiger continued "But its really gonna
depend on sponsorship [for future years]...if
sponsorship comes along thats a little bit
better than what we have now, well probably
do it. If not, Ill just retire the
airplane. This will be my 21st year and
sponsorship through all those years has been
pretty nil and everything keeps getting more and
Then Tiger Destefani
one of the fiercest competitors this sport
has ever seen shifted gears into the Tiger
we love to listen to... Tiger the racer! Issuing
a jovial challenge to his friends who will be in the
other two top Mustangs at Reno....
"Its kind of
ironic, this will be my last year air racing and
Greenamyer is coming back. Ive never flown
against him. Its gonna be interesting! He
better have his combat boots on, along with the
Skipper! Its gonna be great!" Adding
with a hearty laugh.... "Remember this...
second place is reserved in the basement of the
The vision of seeing
Tiger, Skip Holm and Darryl Greenamyer in
competition with the trio of "Fast
Mustangs" currently being raced, raised
goose bumps on this reporter. Tigers
comment to our enthusiastic response to his above
"It should be
pretty dang good!"
We asked Tiger one last
question in parting... Curt Brown (the Commander
of the Space Shuttle Mission that returned
Astronaut-Senator John Glenn into space)
will he still be the alternate pilot this year
and if you continue to campaign Strega, would he
be the first choice for pilot?
"Hell be the
alternate this year and If we do it next year,
hell be in the chair.. provided he wants
The face of Air Racing
is ever changing. Airplanes come and go, new
pilots come into the sport and some leave...
its tough sitting here digesting the
conversation that has just taken place.
Im sure all of us
have grown used to the thought of Bill
"Tiger" Destefani being on the list of
"who to beat" for any given year at
Reno.. Over this last year, Ive had the
privilege of some great moments with this pilot.
I will never forget his interviews...particularly
the "Warbird Talk Radio" segment where Tiger takes
us on a lap at Reno... I get goose bumps every
time I think of his words and of seeing him in
There are many men who
have left an indelible mark on this sport, Bill
"Tiger" Destefani is most certainly one