As the level of racing rises in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, the learning curve for pilots is steeper than ever. The new Master Mentoring Program is designed to bring potential competitors up to speed. To kick it off, 2014 World Champion Nigel Lamb and his Breitling Racing Team will take Frenchman Mikael Brageot under their wing for the season.
The Race Committee of the Red Bull Air Race has announced a new programme designed to take the preparation of top young pilots to the next level as they aim for transition to the Master Class. The new MMP will pair select pilots who emerge from the Challenger Class to train with Master Class teams, for mentoring in real-world conditions throughout the season. Kicking off the new initiative will be the 2015 Challenger Cup winner Mikael "Mika" Brageot, who will be mentored by Nigel Lamb and his Breitling Racing Team.
Brageot possesses the prerequisites: extensive Challenger Cup experience; the coveted Super Licence; and a Master Class team – the UK-based Breitling Racing Team headed by Lamb – that has committed to taking him under their wing.
Rather than competing, Brageot will spend the season in training. He'll be in the hangar with the team as they set strategies. At most stops he'll be granted track time to fly Lamb's MXS-R raceplane, studying the resulting data with Lamb, Red Bull Air Race coaches and other Master Class pilots. To make sure that Brageot's track data doesn't give Lamb or any other pilot an edge, debriefings will take place only after Master Class competition is completed.
"We like to try out new ideas, technology and approaches, so we are happy to pioneer the new Master Mentoring Program," said Lamb. "There is a lot of reasoning behind the initiative, but the main priority is improving the transition into the World Championship series. We'll do our best to ensure Mika is as competitive as possible for his first Master Class season in the future."
While participation in the MMP isn't a guarantee of promotion to the Master Class, Brageot recognises its potential. "I see this as a way to accelerate my readiness to enter the Master Class on a more equal footing with the other pilots," stated the Frenchman. "To get input from a champion like Nigel and fly his raceplane in the racetracks? To work with one of the best teams in the sport? I'm honoured, and I will make the most of this opportunity."
The Master Mentoring Program is designed to further increase flight safety and competitiveness by providing coached track time in actual Master Class planes as well as mentoring in how to set up and lead a team.