The gloves have come off. Team #99 continues to fight its way to the top of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship with a 4th place finish at the Rovinj, Croatia stop of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

In a field of competition this tight, the smallest miscalculation often means the difference between jubilant celebration and humbling defeat. Strategy and execution are paramount, a fact understood by Team #99 in its approach to the race course over the waters of Rovinj. Success teetered on analysis of the course by Team #99 strategist Steve Hall, and pilot Michael Goulian’s ability to wrangle the Edge 540 through the course with surgical precision at 200mph.

The first round of competition pitted the two Americans, Michael Goulian and Kirby Chambliss against each other in a head-to-head battle through the pylons. Goulian proved the victor with a flawless run while Chambliss’ run was riddled with 4 seconds of penalties. Goulian attacked the course once more in the Round of 8 with the same plan; flawless execution. Goulian’s penalty-free run was all it took to secure passed to the Final 4 after Canadian Pete McLeod was hit with 2 seconds of penalties during his run.

Team #99 would fly third in the final round. Blistering times from race pilots Hannes Arche and Martin Sonka meant that Goulian would have to crank it up even harder on his final run. At the third gate, Goulian was pulling away from the rest of the competition, showing a split time well ahead of the other race pilots. Carrying that much speed around the track required harder pulls and sharper turns to maintain the raceline proven to be a winner. Goulian’s approach to Gate 4 was too hard for race control, resulting in an “Over G” penalty, one of only a few penalties that results in a disqualification from the round. Team #99 finished in fourth place; their best since the relaunch of the Red Bull Air Race last year.

“This has been a good week, we’ve been consistent throughout. Today I was right on the edge. I was pushing really hard because I knew it was going to be difficult to get under 54 seconds with my race plane and that’s where I pulled too hard and got the over G. We’re still setting up the race plane properly and once we do that we can start working on modifications,” Michael said after the race.

The next Red Bull Air Race is in Budapest, where Goulian won in 2009. They’re hoping to keep up racing consistency and gain speed with more engine tuning. Take a look at Goulian’s post race interview for his reaction and thoughts for the next race.

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