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Highly Modified P-51 Racer ‘VooDoo’ Ran Short Of Magic At Reno In 2009 


(3 pix) 

 The 2009 Gold Unlimited race at Reno crowned Steve Hinton Jr. in ‘Strega’ as the champion, with John Penney in ‘Rare Bear’ second, and Sherman Smoot in the Yak 11 ‘Czech Mate’ in third.  But if you weren’t there, or you don’t follow Unlimited air racing closely, you probably don’t know how close that colorful P-51 above called ’VooDoo’ came to changing all that.

 Will Whiteside, flying the highly-modified P-51 racer Voodoo, started the Gold championship race on Sunday 9-20-09 in the pole position because Strega cut a pylon on Saturday… so even tho Strega was first across the finish line on Saturday, the cut pylon penalty slid them back to second and out of the pole position.

 However, in the race start on Sunday, Strega pulled ahead right from the start with VooDoo hangin’ in there right thru the first several laps.  Then, I noticed a few laps into the 8-lap race, somewhere near pylon 3, that Whiteside encountered some trouble.  The mostly purple P-51 suddenly gained some noticeable altitude making me think it was pulling out of the race, but Whiteside recovered right away and continued the wild pursuit of Strega.

 After reading Whiteside’s interview at, I’m guessing that was one of the times he got caught up in the wake turbulence coming off of Strega.  That makes for a challenging situation, and he lost some time, but it definitely didn’t take him out of the race.

 A few more laps into things and Voodoo seemed to be gaining some ground.  Then, again somewhere around pylon 3 and running about 500mph, VooDoo pulled up abruptly.  It was obvious this time he was out of the race.  The engine just couldn’t hold together for the 3 laps needed to make it to the finish line.  It was fascinating to see the altitude he was able to gain in trade for that 500 mph!  In just a matter of seconds he was several thousand feet above the race course.  And fortunately, there weren't any complications beyond an engine that wasn’t running (like smoke, fire, or an obscured windshield), so it was a relatively uneventful deadstick landing that ended the race season for VooDoo.


Yeah, those are the pistons of that Rolls Royce Merlin you see there!

 If you haven’t been to the Reno Air Races, I really suggest you consider making it there in 2010 (Sept. 15-19).  It’s an amazing experience with so much to see and do.  And, one of the coolest things to me is the ability to have access to the pits (if you buy the relatively affordable pit pass) and see the airplanes as they are being worked on each day getting ready to race.

 As these first two pix show, VooDoo Racing had their own open-air sunshade/hangar in the pit area to do their work.  And as you can see in the pic above, they do some serious work in that setting.  You can see the right bank of pistons hangin’ out in the breeze as the engine was in the midst of some pretty extension maintenance!  It’s just really neat to be able to watch this kind of stuff being done, and then to see the airplane racing at nearly 500mph the next day : )


 Will Whiteside taxiing VooDoo out behind Dreadnought at Reno 2009

 In the end, the VooDoo racer was an exciting player in the 2009 Reno Air Races, but they don’t have any big trophy’s to prove it.  But just like every year at Reno, there are a lot of very interesting stories unfolding… if you only knew about them.  I suggest you keep an eye on as we move toward Reno 2010 as I try to set some of these stories up.  I already know of some pretty big things that are in the works for this next year.  2010 should bring an awesome racing event to the Nevada desert, and hopefully you’ll be right there with me then as we watch Whiteside and VooDoo give it another go with a bunch of wild and hungry competitors in the world’s fastest motorsport!


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