The Red Bull Air Race has flown in Russia only twice before, and both times, American Michael Goulian stood on the podium, with third place in 2017 and second place last year. This weekend, he will look to complete the set with a win as the raceplanes take off in the sporting capital of Kazan. Here, the pilot and his team coach Pablo Branco talk about their podium performance at the season opener, share what they have been doing in the months since, and reveal how they are feeling about the race in Russia on June 15-16.
Mike and Pablo, the season opener was in February, and now the second stop is coming up on Saturday and Sunday. What has the team been up to in the meantime?
MG: It sure was a big break! We spent a lot of time preparing our air show team for the launch of a fresh program and new branding. Whelen Engineering, our longtime partner, merged their operations with LoPresti Aviation and became WAT: Whelen Aerospace Technologies. Very exciting times! Our Extra 330SC and hospitality trailer all have new paint, now dressed in black and gold, and that is super exciting for us.
Also, back home we have been growing Mike Goulian Aviation, a new Cirrus Training Center and Aircraft Maintenance Facility that is a business we created just over a year ago. It’s coming along very well, with a lot of growth, and we expect that to continue.
You say you prepared for air shows. Any performance highlights yet this year?
MG: We got to fly the Andrews Air Show, a very special one because it is just outside Washington, DC and in “Air Force One’s home.” Another highlight of our spring didn’t involve flying. We had a lifetime opportunity to go back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the stage of our most memorable win in the Red Bull Air Race, to see the Indianapolis 500. It was an unbelievable weekend for someone who grew up watching it on TV!
Team Goulian had an excellent result at the season opener in Abu Dhabi: third place, which put you third in the overall standings as well. What’s your take-away from that race?
PB: The biggest takeaway was that despite changes to the regulations regarding the G-forces, we were quick to adapt. It was also good knowing that we were able to identify and get rid of the ghosts that had haunted us and our raceplane at the 2018 season finale in Texas and resolve all of them. We’re super happy with how we got into gear quickly and performed when it mattered! The airplane was doing very well, and I think that we picked the right strategy on Race Day with the changing winds. Getting our first point of the season in Qualifying and then a podium at that first race is a good result, and it gives us the momentum we want going into a new championship. With the recent announcement of a shortened campaign this year and the series coming to an end, every good result will matter even more!
Your record here in Kazan is strong, with third place and second place across the past two seasons. How have you prepared this time, and what’s your game plan?
MG: Kazan has definitely been good to us! It would be nice to get a full house of Russian trophies with a first-place finish this year. We love coming here and have always felt at home. The new track design last year made for a very interesting week for us! We were on our back foot literally until our second flight in Qualifying – completely unsure of where the fastest line was – but it all came together then. Race Day was exciting with very narrow margins until the Final 4, and when looking back at our 2018 tour, that is the race where we are most proud of our performance, even with a second-place finish. We went from confident to completely lost, but fought our way through, and I believe the Final 4 flight was the best I flew all year, technically speaking.
Those struggles gave us a much better understanding of what it takes to be fast here, and I think it puts us in a better position coming back now in 2019, so I’m really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, unlike the European teams, we weren’t able to access our airplane to work on modifications and practice during this long break since Abu Dhabi, 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.
See Team Goulian go for the podium in Kazan, Russia on June 15-16, 2019. For ticket information and all the latest news on the Red Bull Air Race, visit www.redbullairrace.com.
Upcoming Red Bull Air Race stops
15-16 June Kazan, Russia
13-14 July Lake Balaton, Hungary
7-8 September Chiba, Japan
Content and images courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool.