Ben Murphy and his Blades Team had a season they will never forget. From finishing sixth in their first race to reaching the Final 4 in the last two races of the season it's been a whirlwind for the newest members on of the Master Class. And now the dust has settled on 2018, Murphy has had time to reflect and focus on what he wants to achieve in 2019.
Asking Murphy if someone had told him at the start of the year he was going to have such a breakthrough season he wouldn't have believed it. "It's clearly gone a lot better then we could've expected or hoped at that point," he said. "I think that's tempered by the fact that we didn't really know what to expect. We had a new aeroplane, a new team and the obvious expectation was that we'd be playing second fiddle to all these more experienced teams. But if you put the right team together you've got to hope that you'll get some strong results," he explained.
The team tactics were simple at the start of 2018 – just enjoy it. "It was great to get sixth place in our first race in the Master Class, but I think the reason for that result was due to our attitude, which was: we're completely new to this, let's not worry about it, lets go and get experience and more importantly, go out there and enjoy it."
After the season he's had, which saw him finish seventh overall, Murphy still sees that debut race as his highlight of the season. "That's the one I enjoyed the most because we put zero pressure on ourselves. Conversely we had our biggest learning curve at that first race in the fact that it's all about the pressure you put on yourself. If you don't have that pressure you can get good results, and that's been bourn throughout the season."
So with the 'difficult' second season soon approaching, how does Murphy plan to move forward? "We've had very little time, so we've done as much routine maintenance as possible. We've done some modifications, but they can't be directly related to an increase in speed or power. But what we have done is try to 'base line' the systems on the raceplane which gives us a much better basis of data for us to work on next year," said Murphy. "One of our priorities for 2018 was not to develop the plane too much during the season because I just wanted to fly it, get a feel for how it flies and get comfortable in it. And now we can think about changes!"
While Murphy is gaining experience in the raceplane most of the modifications have focused on data gathering and improving their systems. "Neil's [Furness, the Blades' tactician] has been building our software and gathering all the data from this season to work better for next year," said Murphy, who is also focusing on himself. "And on a personal level I'm looking at the athlete performance and ways I can better prepare myself mentally. That's where the effort will lie for the first part of next year."
Murphy's second season is fast approaching and a lot more eyes will be on him. Britain has had a long history of Red Bull Air Race World Champions, so what are his goals for 2019? "We didn't set a goal in terms of what position we wanted to finish. And we won't set that again next year, because actual results-based goals are very hard to achieve because there are so many other factors involved. My main goal is to end next season with a much better understanding of the raceplane and our processes clearly refined and my head in a consistently good place, and if all those things come together we'll be in a much better position!" Murphy concluded.