‘World’s fastest motor sport’: Reno air races to end after six decades | Extreme sports

The Reno air races, billed as the world’s fastest motor sport, in which pilots fly upwards of 500 mph (800 kmh) 50 feet (15 metres) off the ground, will hold its final event in the Nevada city after being evicted from the airport, the organisers have said.

The competition’s board of directors announced in a statement that “with heavy hearts” the September 2023 race would be the last held at the airfield.

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A P-51 Mustang flies over Reno-Stead airport at the 2021 races. Photograph: APFootage/Alamy

“For so many around the world, Reno has become synonymous with air racing, and it is hard to imagine the National Championship Air Races gracing any other skies than those in the Sierra Nevada,” the directors wrote, adding that they were looking for a new airport.

The races, in which pilots complete a timed course around pylons, have been held in the area since 1964, when Bill Stead, who flew in the second world war and raced boats, brought it to the Sierra foothills.

The annual event draws more than a million spectators and includes seven racing categories, from the smaller biplane class to the “unlimited” class, which involves significantly modified high-performance second world war fighters.

“While we knew this day might come, we had hoped it wouldn’t come so soon,” the board of directors wrote, but the airport authority had made a “decision to sunset the event”.

The statement said the airport authority cited “the region’s significant growth amongst other concerns”, for its decision, without elaborating further.

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An F-35A Lightning II takes off at the 2021 races. Photograph: APFootage/Alamy

The race organisers, who operate as a non-profit organisation, have fought hard to keep the high-horsepower event going at Reno-Stead airport despite facing significant financial issues and noise complaints from people in the area, which has experienced residential development.

Fatal crashes that have killed competitors and sometimes spectators have also raised questions about whether the sport can operate safely. A modified P-51 Mustang nicknamed the Galloping Ghost veered out of control during the 2011 races and crashed into a stand, killing the pilot and 11 other people. A Czech jet hit the ground during a race last year, killing its pilot, Aaron Hogue.

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A P-40 Warhawk at the 2011 races. Photograph: Scott Goodno/Alamy

The directors said in their statement, released on Thursday, that they were confident the event would continue. “In fact, we are currently exploring several other possible locations to host the event in the future, but it starts with making this year’s event the biggest and most successful it can be,” they wrote.

The last Reno air races will be held from 13 to 17 September, with more than 150 planes taking part.

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