AN ARMIDALE man will become the most experienced Australian ever to challenge for the competition billed as the fastest race on earth.
Lachie Onslow is preparing to head to Reno, Nevada for the jet class of the 49th US National Championship Air Races on September 12-16.
The heart-stopping competition features jets travelling at 500 miles an hour, which is the equivalent of two and a half football fields per second.
Mr Onslow, who will compete in his fourth championship, said there was no greater thrill than flying against the best in the world.
“It’s like Daytona in the air; there’s eight aircraft on the track together and they’re actually racing so they battle it out and try to pass each other,” he said.
“You’ve got 300,000 people in the crowd watching you and you’re going up against around 20 of the top guys.
“When the races are on they inject about $80 million into the Reno economy every year and the place is just buzzing.”
Mr Onslow said he hoped to improve on last year’s sixth position but admitted it would be a tough ask with opponents like three-time Redbull champion Mike Mangold.
“I’d imagine that I’ll probably end up in about the same position again with the speed of the jet we’ve got this year and the level of competition,” he said.
“We’re building another jet which is going to be faster but it won’t be ready for this championship.”
A pilot for more than 20 years, Mr Onslow has also forged a career in the aviation industry through local business Fleet Helicopters.
Having had a passion for flying from an early age, he was encouraged to pursue air racing after watching a fellow Australian participate in the championship event.
“I’ve always wanted to do it, there was nothing that pushed me into it I just can’t remember not wanting to do it,” he said.
“Then a friend of mine, who was racing Formula 1 aeroplanes at Reno, asked me if I wanted to fly his plane a few years ago, so that’s how I got started with this.”
Mr Onslow’s air racing career began in the Formula 1 division but he first qualified for the championship’s fastest race, the jet class, last year.
He said interest in the sport was continuing to grow, which made it easier to attract major sponsors such as American company Atlantic and Armidale McDonalds.
His progress at the championship can be followed by liking the facebook page Onslaught Air Racing.