The sun set Sunday on Kazan, Russia after a 2nd place podium finish for American pilot Michael Goulian…and Team 99 couldn’t be more proud: “I don’t think I will ever get tired of the taste of champagne! We finally feel what it’s like to be on top, and we are hungry for more. I couldn’t be more proud!” Team 99’s TC Emily Mankins comments with a grin after watching her race pilot walk across the podium stage for the fourth time this year.
Heading into the race, Goulian was confident in his tactics: “I think this racetrack is one of those tracks where there’s a magical second: you can lose it or you can gain it with just a very small deviation from the line. This job today is about perfection. Not so much about being super aggressive as it is to try and make sure you put the plane in the right place on the racetrack at every point.” Goulian would go on to consistently improve his lap times each session.
Facing off against Christian Bolton in the 6th heat of Round of 14, the American pilot kept his composure and clocked 52.437 in the track, 3.107 seconds less than his Chilean competitor. Goulian proceeded onto the next stage along with Yoshi Muroya, Ben Murphy, Matt Hall, Martin Sonka, Francois LeVot, and fellow American and reigning Kazan champion Kirby Chambliss.
The Round of 8 began and France’s Francois LeVot took to the track against Goulian but missed the margin by 0.878sec. Muroya and Hall did not progress either, picking up penalties for a technical infraction and a pylon hit, respectively. The matchup of Sonka vs. Murphy seemed quite similar to Goulian’s heat: Murphy a mere 0.800 behind Sonka.
The Final 4 pilots battled it out for champagne showers: Chambliss, Goulian, Velarde, and Sonka each flew error-free and put respectable times on the board, within 0.563 seconds of each other.
It was evident the podium pilots found the magic in the track, all finishing within an astonishing 0.181 seconds between them.
“We are going to try to keep winning. This is not a time to play defense. We will just keep our foot on the gas and try to be consistent. When the opportunity to win arises, we will take it.” Goulian comments.
Michael Goulian is the only pilot in the 2018 series to advance to the Final 4 all five out of five races, taking the podium in all locations except Budapest.
Kazan’s P2 [second place] launches Goulian to the top of the overall ranking, knocking Australian Matt Hall out of the coveted seat. Team 99 is currently 6 points ahead of Team Sonka and Team Hall who are now tied for 2nd in the World Championship standings.
Goulian grins as he waves goodbye to the crowd: “Today, we leave Russia with a smile on our face.” And one more trophy!
Kazan Final 4 Results:
- Sonka (CZE) – 52.123
- Goulian (USA) – 52.238
- Chambliss (USA) – 52.304
- Velarde (ESP) – 52.686
Current World Championship Standings:
- Goulian (USA) – 55 pts
- Sonka (CZE) – 49 pts
- Hall (AUS) – 49 pts
- Brageot (FRA) – 27 pts
- Muroya (JPN) – 22 pts
- Le Vot (FRA) – 20 pts
- Chambliss (USA) – 19 pts
- Velarde (ESP) – 16 pts
- Dolderer (GER) – 15 pts
- Murphy (GBR) – 15 pts
- McLeod (CAN) – 11 pts
- Kopfstein (CZE) – 10 pts
- Bolton (CHI) – 6 pts
- Ivanoff (FRA) – 6 pts
Photos courtesy Red Bull Content Pool.