"That’s All Bullshit"
 

This 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 don’t 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 competition.

"I’ve planned on that for many years, going to 2000. I thank the lord I’ve made it that long. Whether or not I’m 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..

"It’s hard to quit, but sometimes you just have to know when and I think it’s 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

"I haven’t asked Dwight about when it’s going to be ready." Adding, "It doesn’t make much difference, we can get it back two days before it’s time to go and it’s no problem. The airplane’s basically ready to go except for the engine and that doesn’t 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.

"We’ll probably do a little test work with it... we’re 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?

"I’ll definitely be flying it this year and it’s definitely my last year to be in the chair." Tiger continued "But it’s really gonna depend on sponsorship [for future years]...if sponsorship comes along that’s a little bit better than what we have now, we’ll probably do it. If not, I’ll 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 more expensive."

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 Mustang’s at Reno....

"It’s kind of ironic, this will be my last year air racing and Greenamyer is coming back. I’ve never flown against him. It’s gonna be interesting! He better have his combat boots on, along with the Skipper! It’s gonna be great!" Adding with a hearty laugh.... "Remember this... second place is reserved in the basement of the ladies room!"

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. Tiger’s comment to our enthusiastic response to his above comments....

"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?

"He’ll be the alternate this year and If we do it next year, he’ll be in the chair.. provided he wants it."

The face of Air Racing is ever changing. Airplanes come and go, new pilots come into the sport and some leave... it’s tough sitting here digesting the conversation that has just taken place.

I’m 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, I’ve 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 the sky.

There are many men who have left an indelible mark on this sport, Bill "Tiger" Destefani is most certainly one of those!

-Wayne Sagar-

 
Bill "Tiger" Destefani: Pilot RACER!

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