For the love of motorsport: Air Racing pros talk wheels and wings
"Not too many people get the chance to race at a legendary track like the Nürburgring or Indianapolis, so that's a very special feeling," says Matthias Dolderer, who clinched the 2016 World Championship by winning history's first Red Bull Air Race at "The Brickyard," and has been a guest driver in the Audi Sport TT Cup at the Nürburgring. "To me, it is also an extra motivation. Indianapolis will always be a very special location to go back to."
Dolderer's tacticians, the father-and-son team of Michael and Matthias Stock, happen to be active rally drivers, winning, for example, the international Tuscan Rewind together. They see certain similarities in the two sports: "Rally driving and air racing share many basic principles of identifying the fastest trajectories," notes the younger Stock, "especially on tracks over water." His father adds, "Energy management is a vital part of 2D and 3D motorsports. Smoothness is the key to maximise speed for both. We also use our experience in split-second decision-making and anticipation of fast-approaching targets to optimise the flight dynamics around the pylons."
Pablo Bueno, who recently joined Spain's Team Velarde as team coordinator, has raced in the Dakar Rally and served as team coordinator for the Peugeot Sport Team at the European Rally Championship. "In almost all motorsports, the athletes do a lot of kilometres, runs or laps. In MotoGP, motocross and F1, they practice for hours in each circuit before the race. And in the Dakar Rally or Enduro, being tough as they are, you can have a bad day and the day after be back in contention," he states. "But in the Red Bull Air Race, Juan flies in the track only a handful of minutes before the race. So the pilots need a bold expertise and talent to compete at the highest level. And with no margin for error. One small mistake and you are out of the race." Bueno continues, "That's why they need the help of tacticians to do all the data analysis and to predict actions and reactions. There's no time to think, so the pilot must just let himself fly."
The expert tactician who does the data analysis for Australia's Matt Hall Racing is Peter Wezenbeek, who began his career with work in the 24 Hours of Le Mans before accepting a job with the Renault Formula One team and helping Fernando Alonso to two F1 World Championships, including a role as control systems engineer. He signed on with Hall in 2014.
"There's a big difference among racing drivers in how they interact and how deep their knowledge is in regard to the technical systems," Wezenbeek comments. "When they have that understanding, they always respond well to technical improvements and enhancements, and that's a big, big bonus. Fernando Alonso was one of those – very clever. And Matt has that deep understanding as well. For an engineer like me, he's the ideal pilot to work with."
Team Goulian manager Pablo Branco feels that he, too, has found a kindred spirit in the pilot he supports, American Michael Goulian. Growing up in Brazil, Branco idolised Formula One icon Ayrton Senna, and after launching his aviation career, for many years he worked for auto racing's Piquet family, including serving as personal pilot to Nelson Piquet Jr., who remains a close friend. Branco and Goulian share a fascination not only for flying, but for motorsports in general, and they cannot wait to take off this weekend in what will be a home race for their team.
"The best drivers in the world have been at Indianapolis, and to come here as part of a racing team is such a privilege. When you drive through the tunnel and look around at the massive grandstands... and you walk through Gasoline Alley and you see the bricks, and you think of all the people who raced here... It's THE spot for motorsports in the States," Branco describes. "If you come here and watch a race as a spectator, it's amazing. And if you're here to race with your team, you put your name in history." He concludes, "It's a feeling that will stay with me forever."
Feel the history! The Red Bull Air Race flies at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the third consecutive season this weekend, get your tickets HERE.