Reno Diaries 2023 – Ep. 3

Special delivery! Andy hauled a whole trailer full of distilled water. The metal mafia also had nitrous delivered. Better to be safe than sorry.
Me all week.

Us Crew Chiefs haul everything from hardware to spare propellers (except if you’re me you forget basics like spark plug anti-seize. Thanks for the loan, Mike!). Many of the teams also have connections and are able to get stuff like nitrous overnighted. If we have stuff to spare we’ll gladly share everything. Our pilots compete on the course, but in the pits they’re each other’s biggest supporters.

Me and Chris, Peter Balmer’s Crew Chief.

Taking on this responsibility is kind of like flying—it gets me out of my comfort zone and forces me to think outside the box. It can be stressful waking up early and jumping right into paying close attention to detail, but it’s always worth it. Jeff’s here to win and with our help he often does just that. It’s a special, once in a lifetime opportunity and it hasn’t fully set in yet that I won’t be here with him anymore. The mechanics have come and gone, but Jeff and I have remained a unit and really found our groove. We work well together and I’m thankful we found each other.

Here’s what’s fueling us during race week.

Race 39

The only real change Jeff made this year is that he narrowed the cowling exits near the exhaust to gain some speed. Unfortunately it’s now rubbing a bit on the inside of the cowl, so the team has done layups on the outside to reinforce it. Andy Chiavetta of Aerochia Aircraft Performance and Racing has been a huge help with this—Jeff’s known him for years. He worked in exchange for some 2” chip brushes, but I also see a bottle of Nevada-priced tequila in his future.

Sport Gold briefing the 1A flight.

Race 3

I must admit, it was a blast from the past hearing the Havoc team swing their Glasair III’s gear in the pit next to me. They race Mojo. We used to check Race 39’s gear after every flight before Robbie hooked Jeff up with his lower door design. We still bring jacks just in case, but the gear has been the least of our worries as of late.

Havoc’s pilot, Sean VanHatten, was one of my first friends at Reno. He and his former Crew Chief Thomas Windom welcomed me with open arms and together we were the three youngsters on field. We used to race golf carts during the evening hours until Jeff yelled at us—probably wise. Thomas is still a part of Sport Class, but he’s now David Robinson’s CC.

Sean qualified at 357.156, a new record for him and the fastest Mojo’s ever qualified at Reno. It’s been really inspirational watching him, I remember when racing a Glasair III was merely a daydream for him. He had some issues earlier this week, a compromised fuel nozzle to be semi-exact, but he got it all cleared up and kept it together during the first Gold heat race yesterday. No issues with Jeff or Andy either. Looking forward to a weekend of racing!

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Ariana Rayment
Ariana Rayment is an instrument-rated private pilot from Tacoma, Washington. She discovered her love of flying through her former purchasing role at Glasair Aviation. She loves the Reno Air Races, where she stands alongside Jeff LaVelle as his crew chief and pals around with her friends in Sport Class.


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