Michael Goulian qualified in 5th place at the Red Bull Air Race in Porto, Portugal Saturday. He and his team will face off against Mikael Brageot in the first round of competition Sunday.

The Red Bull Air Race is often compared to Formula 1 racing in the sky. It is a contest of thoroughbred machines paired with masterful pilots thrust into an arena rife with hairpin turns where a win is only found at the intersection of power and finesse. However, the Porto installment of the race borrowed as much from drag racing as anything. Limited to the narrow confines of the Douro River, the race course is an out and back slalom offering few opportunities for gain. Horsepower and raw energy were the keys to success Saturday. Limited to an entry speed of 180kts, and with only three instances of substantial G forces to slow them, the race pilots were faced with the unusual challenge of finding ways to not only maintain a high speed, but to accelerate through the course. For Team 99, that meant a reliance on Goulian’s ability to fly clean, and also on the refinements made to their Edge 540 over the last two years.

Goulian’s time of 1:08:025 was the fastest time flown Saturday amongst the first 9 competitors. Only .733 seconds separates him from the pole position held by Canadian Pete McLeod. That small margin guarantees that Sunday’s race could be won by any of the teams. Goulian is confident.

“We flew really solid in the Quali and we’re happy with that. The track is incredibly wind sensitive. The times are so close that there will be no room for errors. Clean flying will be the name of the game on race day.”

Goulian and France’s Mikael Brageot will race against each other in the first heat of Sunday’s Round of 14 contest. This denies either competitor the opportunity to watch learn how the other pilots navigate the course and manage the day’s winds. Instead, Goulian and Brageot will have to rely on experience, and instinct.
Viewers in the United States may follow the race action with live updates from Red Bull Air Race.com/live beginning at 8am EDT Sunday September 3.