Kirby Chambliss is one of the most successful pilots in the Red Bull Air Race. The eight-time race winner also has two titles to his name and wants to improve on those numbers.
Recent seasons have seen Chambliss back on the podium, but that's not enough for the competitive American. At the end of the 2015 season he added Paulo Iscold, Paul Bonhomme's aerodynamicist to his team. During the offseason Iscold along with Chambliss and Jason Resop – the team's technician – have been working hard to improve the raceplane for the upcoming season.
The first thing Team Chambliss did in the offseason was look to reduce weight. When the team's raceplane was originally built, it sported a blue and silver paint scheme. With the revival of the Air Races in 2014, the Red Bull paint scheme, as we know it today, was applied over the pre-existing paint job. A lot of paint means a lot of weight. Even in the short time before the raceplane had to be shipped to Abu Dhabi, the team decided to sand the wing down to carbon and refinish it.
"It was massive work. Hours and hours went into sanding it all down. I will not say how much weight we saved, but I can tell you that Kirby is back to eating desserts!" said Iscold. "Because time was short, we also decided to build new wheel pants last minute. For that, the use of 3D scanning and CNC machines made a huge difference. Not only does the new design provide a perfect fit, they're now super light."
Increase Control Over Engine Temperature
The team has learned throughout the years that the engine needs to be at a certain temperature to produce the correct power. "Because it is air-cooled, we needed to find a more efficient way to cool the cylinder heads and the oil," said Iscold. "Previously, this was all done as one system. Modifications to the cowling last year improved cooling, but ideally, we wanted to have oil cooling and cylinder cooling separated into two systems. Again, I will not give away any numbers, but this is way better than it was for the 2016 season. Jason's also happy because the new system makes his life much easier during ferry flights," he explained.
Finally Team Chambliss worked on their winglets. "Through a lot of data analysis, we found that our winglets were doing their job throughout the turns in the race track. However, they created quite a lot of drag when trying to fly a straight line. We created a whole new design to optimise the overall energy saved. These new winglets have proven to be good not only in our simulations, but also during the in-flight flow visualisation," said Iscold.
Now with the raceplane on its way to Abu Dhabi the team will have to wait until 10-11 February to see if their modifications have worked.
Original story courtesy of Kayla Layton from TeamChambliss.com