Motorsport is all about teamwork. If the team isn't running as smoothly as a well-tuned engine, then there's going to be problems and a break down of one sort or another. Michael Goulian has been working hard to get the right people in the right places, but now feels he has a winning formula.
Goulian is known as one of the hardest working pilots in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, but has always struggled to find what was needed to make it all come together. He's been close for the last few years, but now it's all clicked together.
The American pilot last won in Budapest in 2009, but why has it taken so long? "I've been asking myself that same question," joked Goulian. "As everybody knows, the Air Race is just such a difficult sport you have to be on the edge at all times. Not only does the pilot have to fly well but you also have to have a really good plane and a really good team behind you. It's one of those things that after a while you start to doubt yourself and start looking for excuses. But you have to look inwards and see what you're doing as a competitor," he explained.
Team Goulian has, for the past four years, been working on the chemistry of the team, trying to give everybody their proper job and give them the leeway to do their job. "Now we have the team and the machine I just have to go out there and fly," Goulian said.
It's no secret that in this motorsport consistency is what wins races and World Championships. Goulian said that the team left 2017 knowing they had a winning raceplane and a pilot – when he was at his best – that could win. "Last year we were consistently in the Round of 8, but we were not breaking through into the Final 4. So we sat back and looked at the team and figured out how do we get in to the final round on a more consistent basis so we can vie for the World Championship – that's what we did and it worked out really well here," he said.
That sounds simple enough, but things have to change; habits, mind sets and procedures all need adjusting. Goulian got insight from someone who knows a thing or two about winning. "Nigel Lamb spent a few days at my house this past fall and we spoke a lot. A few days after he asked how can I win when I am so distracted by my other business interests? He said I needed to unplug as best I can when at the race and focus. My new TC Emily Mankins took my phone and my computer as soon as we arrived. I was isolated, able to focus and it put me in the right zone."
For a TC to be able to take all communication tools away from their pilot there has to be the highest level of trust in the team. "The teams are just so important to the pilot," explained Goulian. "When you have a team that's working you don't even have to talk, you just know by their body-language what their thinking and what you're thinking. You have to be a family out there, so you're comfortable, especially when you're half way around the world – it puts you at ease as well and as a pilot that's just so important," added Goulian.
Goulian is in the control seat now and will want to build on his momentum, he has his season long plan all worked out: "We're going to go out there and get into the Final 4 as much as we can. And when we get to the late part of the season we'll see if we're vying for the World Championship."