'Burt Munro of the skies' goes full noise over Nevada desert
A Kiwi pilot dubbed the "Burt Munro of the skies" has beaten the odds in the world's fastest motorsport.
Graeme Frew has been flying his restored World War II fighter plane, bearing Munro's famous No 35, over the Nevada desert at the Reno Championship Air Races.
And in classic Munro fashion, Frew fought his way up through the divisions, mechanical scares in tow, to reach the finals on Monday [NZ time].
Frew is the first Kiwi to compete at the Nevada race, not far from the Bonneville Salt Flats in neighbouring Utah, where Munro's motorcycle became the world's fastest Indian.
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But he almost did not race at all, after the new engine in his Yak 3 failed the day before his first race.
It took his crew 18 hours, working through rain and thunderstorms, to swap the old engine back in time.
Munro was known for tweaking his 1920 Indian motorcycle on the fly.
After Frew's engine setback, he found himself at the bottom of the table in the 'unlimited' bronze class. But a win saw him advance through to the silver class.
Another win saw Frew and his Yak 3, called Full Noise, qualify for the gold race.
Up against six top pilots, the former Blenheim man put up a good fight, flying eight laps of roughly 12 kilometres, reaching speeds of 550kmh, but missed out on the top spot. He did, however, pick up the 'unlimited' rookie of the year award.
The 'unlimited' class consists of mainly World War II-era planes, many of which can reach speeds of 800kmh, with most planes in the gold class able to complete the course in nine minutes.
While Frew was flying over Nevada, the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre has had a hole in its exhibition. Normally, Full Noise can be found on display in the collection of aviation history.
Fan Jenny Mackie has been following the races, waking up at 4.30am to catch a glimpse of the World War II-era planes.
"Amazing racing, absolutely amazing racing. I wouldn't get up that early if I didn't love it," she said.
Some of Frew's races had been nerve-racking to watch, she said.
About 135 planes were flown in the races in different categories. Frew was up against 18 other pilots across the unlimited category.