Pilots Divulge Their Projects And Preparation
The 14 Master Class pilots of the Red Bull Air Race are tuning up for the second stop of the 2019 World Championship. And now they’re on site in the Russian sporting capital, they are revealing what they have been up to since February’s season opener in Abu Dhabi.
With the raceplanes stationed in Europe ahead of this season’s first race on the continent, many European pilots took advantage of the opportunity to access their aircraft for modifications and testing. Among them was Mika Brageot, the only pilot in the field to fly an MXS-R. “We had the chance to get the plane back to the hangar for one month. We worked a lot on the handling to make it more precise in the Vertical Turning Manoeuvres and big turns, mostly under high-Gs. Those changes are mainly about positioning the centre of gravity and the balance of the plane. It takes a lot of time to get that just right,“ Brageot reported.
For some of the pilots based in other parts of the world, it was a different approach to prepping for Race 2. Michael Goulian and Kirby Chambliss, who have both claimed podium spots in the two previous Kazan races, didn’t cross the Atlantic to access their aircraft in advance. Instead, they opted to maintain G-fit by participating in airshows. “Unfortunately, we weren't able to access our aeroplane to work on modifications and practice during the break, but we are confident we have done everything possible within our reach, and we can't wait to see how we'll all stack up after such a long time out of the racetrack,” said Goulian.
Matt Hall Racing was one team who did make the epic trek across several continents to Europe. After the team came perilously close to a “Did Not Start” in Abu Dhabi due to engine woes, Hall and Technician David Finch spent time working on the plane in Germany. Latest reports indicate that they expect to have a competitive engine in Kazan.
Three contenders took advantage of a Red Bull Air Race Training Camp in Spain, which was organised to enable pilots to fly through a racetrack outside race conditions. In attendance was 2017 World Champion Yoshihide Muroya. He won the season opener by just 0.003s over reigning titleholder Martin Sonka and also took pole position in Abu Dhabi, making the most of a new rule that awards points to the top three finishers in Qualifying. He was joined by Chile's Cristian Bolton and Spanish pilot Juan Velarde. “The Training Camp is the optimum place to check modifications on the raceplane and practice track options, including different runs and various Vertical Turning Manoeuvres. I also could improve my pace and put my mind in track mode without the race week pressure,” Bolton said. Velarde added, “It really makes a difference to train in a proper track with pylons. I think my team has arrived in Kazan with the homework done and ready to perform at our best.”
A number of pilots hosted media days and friends-and-family events to engage with supporters. Martin Sonka had the World Championship trophy on display at the recent aviation fair in the Czech city of Pardubice, where he and his compatriot Petr Kopfstein gave fans a taste of the racing action in Red Bull Air Race Demos.
As if the pilots and teams weren’t already eager to race after the break, the recent announcement that the Red Bull Air Race World Championship will not continue past the 2019 season seems to have only heightened their anticipation. Everyone wants to make the most of the three races that remain – Kazan; Lake Balaton, Hungary; and Chiba, Japan. “We view it as three more opportunities to bring home a first place. So we are not going to let up at all,” stated Chambliss, who captured the season title in 2004 and 2006. “We’re excited to get in the track.”