Michael Goulian and Team 99 had fire in their veins Sunday morning at the Red Bull Air Race in Lausitz, Germany.
Their week at the race track provided glimpses of brilliance, posting unrivaled speeds and times around the pylons at the Eurospeedway. Their exuberance was tempered only by the fateful bite of penalties incurred during practice sessions for inching over the line of acceptable aggression; turning too early through a gate or pulling too hard in a vertical turn. In a contest where victory is won by infinitesimal margins, there is no room for taking it easy. The initial challenge Sunday morning was to defeat one of the fastest race pilots of the season; Canadian Pete McLeod.
The goal for Team 99 was simple: fly fast and leaving nothing behind. The aim was to match their fastest flight of the week without suffering a penalty. A time of 50.5 seconds would rank among the fastest times recorded across the entire field of competition for the week. They were on pace to beat that time in the first half of the flight. Then at Gate #9 the red flag went up. A 2 second penalty was incurred for flying too low through a gate. Undeterred, Goulian kept the throttle wide open. With the proliferation of penalties throughout the week, McLeod could just as easily suffer a penalty, nullifying Goulian’s. It was not until Goulian had flown through the finish gate and had begun climbing out that he heard the race director announce he had received a total of 4 seconds of penalties, the other 2 incurred at gate #14 for “climbing in the gate.” Trying to add pressure to McLeod, Goulian had begun his vertical turn a fraction early. Rules state that the pilot’s head must be completely past the pylons before the nose of the airplane can begin moving up towards the sky.
Goulian’s official time in the Round of 14 was 00:54:572. Adjusted for penalties and the Team would have seen 00:50:572, the second fastest time flown by any time the entire day.
“I knew going into the Round of 14 that Pete would be strong so today was a day to lay it all out on the line…I went out there and flew with 100% aggression, leaving nothing to chance. It was actually the fastest net time in the entire Round of 14 so it was mission accomplished…and we got two penalties. Honestly, I didn’t know about those penalties until they told me. So the flight was, for me, satisfying. It was just what I wanted to do and getting a little bit low and pulling a little early in the VTM, that’s what you’re getting when you’re pushing really hard to try to get every tenth of a second out of your lap time.”
Japan’s Yoshi Muroya picked up his 3rd win of the season, moving him into first position in the season leaderboard. The results of the final four were:
The Red Bull Air Race will next return to the United States for the final race of the season. The race pilots will once again take on the course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 14th and 15th. Goulian and Team 99 will enter the race armed with determination and confidence. “I was flying on the edge. That’s been the mantra for this week. Let’s go win a race. Let’s go fly as hard as we can. And that’s what we’re going to do in Indianapolis as well.”