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The week began early this year, we flew the airplane quite a bit this off season, so any airplane issues we had were worked out well before September. Actually, our last issue was fixed while we were at PRS, we just polished our work up a bit once we got home.

We got our engine a week before we left for Reno. It had 5 hours or so on it on the stand. We took our time putting the engine in; no thrash. We were simply meticulous. It seems every year we have some oil leak, or weep, or some temperamental issue. But this year, it started right up and there no leaks. We were all amazed and quite happy.

The airplane flew a few times at Shafter, but not more than 4 hours. We were ready. At Reno, the first issue we faced were broken Merlin fingers after an 80 inch run on Sunday. Monday was spent building up a new valve train using Merlin fingers from our ferry motor. An interesting note - prior to this year, the last time these fingers were raced was Tiger's win in '97. We spent the day building and modifying the fingers so we could use them, and were able to qualify on Tuesday. 

After the qualification run, we had no issues. We spent our extra time double checking our spray bar flows and ADI flows. We started dawn-patrol flights Thursday, and began tweaking our engine a little. After Friday's race, we went through our routine of checking screens, plugs, and valves. It was all simply perfect. Many people probably thought we had problems because we were out so late, but it was all routine work. We've got a small crew, so while Dago's crew may be able to leave earlier, it's because they've got more people. Four people working on the engine; we may have one or two at most. It just takes us a bit longer.

After Friday's race, we were still a little unhappy with the motor, so we tweaked a little more. We flew Saturday morning and decided to change both magnetos. We flew the race that way and were fairly happy with the engine. It all looked good until we found we needed to change a camshaft. We had spares, so we swapped them out, did a little refitting, and were ready for Sunday. Sunday - as well as all the race days - was fairly nonchalant. The airplane was ready to go well in advance, and we found ourselves able to wax it, take a much needed nap, and grab some food.

You know how the race went... Our telemetry was good the whole race, Tiger flew excellent, and the race was his. Everyone went to bed early that night. Imagine that..! All that work and we were all in bed by eleven!. Oh well! 

We came out Monday, pulled the screens and plugs, and looked at the valve train. Everything was good. We launched Tiger out around 2pm with Dago and Chech Mate, and began loading our trailer with everything. We left Stead about 7:30 that evening. We were the last ones on the ramp - no one else in sight. We wondered if we were indeed the champions. It seemed we had this same song and dance last year. But for us, it finally sank in on the drive home. It is ours for the next 364 days.

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Story by Steven Hinton for Warbird Aero Press. Photos by Scott Germain. Copyright 2008. All Right Reserved.