Highs and lows of Abu Dhabi
The anticipated season opener is always filled with both jubilation and commiseration for the pilots. So after some reflection, here's an overview of the pilots that made their mark in Race 1, as well as the pilots who will simply be looking forward to a clean slate in Race 2.
It couldn't have been a more perfect start to the season for the 2017 World Champion. He collected three points for winning Qualifying on the Friday of race week, before repeating the dominating performance on Saturday's Race Day by taking the win. Muroya walked away from Abu Dhabi with the maximum 28 points.
They say defending a title is the only thing harder than winning it in the first place. But Martin Sonka is trying his best to only focus on the 2019 season. And losing out on the top spot by just 0.003s shows that he is ready to battle, and is already in the fight for a back-to-back title this year.
It was a difficult week for Michael Goulian and his team, but they were able to pull together on Race Day and end Race Day with a place on the podium. Despite their difficult start, Abu Dhabi was a definite boost for Team 99, and puts the idea that Goulian's 2018 success wasn't just a one season wonder.
Kopfstein arrived in Abu Dhabi with a new engine in his raceplane. But unable to fly for two days, the Czech pilot was unable to run his engine in as much as he would have liked. Consequently, Kopfstein was unable to push as hard on the engine in the track, and the timesheets didn't reflect the kind of performance and results he’s capable of. With time to test his engine further, Kopfstein will be primed and ready for round two.
Engine issues were also a problem for Matt Hall in Abu Dhabi. After his race, Hall commented that “... the aircraft just isn’t happy at the moment.” It was been revealed that one of the cylinders was running 20% hotter than its counterparts, and shaking. The team had Lycoming working with them, but they were running under power. Hall believes that his engine will have to go to the US and be overhauled, so he’ll be back at the next race with a point to prove.
After a brilliant Master Class debut in 2018, many experts believed that Murphy might have continued where he left off. But an instrument failure just moments before his run on the track for the Round of 14 seemed to pull his focus, leaving the British pilot carrying 4s of penalties, effectively ending his Race Day early.
HIGHS & LOWS
McLeod was back to his best in Qualifying, taking second place, but a technical infraction saw him stripped of his two Qualifying points that he would have otherwise collected. McLeod wasn’t able to repeat his Qualifying performance on Race Day, but seemed optimistic and will take the positives from Abu Dhabi forward into the next race.
Bolton performed brilliantly in the Free Practice sessions as well as Qualifying, but due to weather changes on Race Day, the Chilean pilot pushed too hard and exceeded the maximum G-limit, resulting in a DNF. Bolton remains optimistic however, and will take away the fact that he now has a competitive raceplane from the season opener, and is most definitely in the fight for more World Championship points this season.
Ivanoff found his form at the perfect time in Abu Dhabi. Over race weekend, he took a monumental leap from last place in Qualifying to the Final 4 on Race Day. Ivanoff made it through the Round of 14 as the fastest loser, before knocking out Kirby Chambliss from their heat in the Round of 8. But disaster struck Ivanoff just before the Final 4 session, when he couldn’t start his engine for his last run of the day. This DNS result meant that the French pilot had to settle for fourth place overall. After the race Ivanoff said: “I was close to be on the podium, but we had a problem in the Final 4 with the fuel pump. I couldn’t start the engine. It’s not nice to finish the race like that, but it’s a good start for the season.”