After a season of equipment challenges, American pilot Michael Goulian admittedly is a long shot to win the seventh stop of the Red Bull Air Race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. While he’s playing the hand he’s been dealt, this is one player who’s looking toward shaking up the game in 2015.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (United States) – As American pilot Michael Goulian prepares for the seventh stop of the Red Bull Air Race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, his mind is awash with questions. His plane has been underperforming all season, leaving the former series event winner in last place in the World Championship standings, and the oddsmakers give him a 1-in-35 chance of winning on Sunday.
“We’re using every race as a learning experience, but now the focus is next year,” he says. We’re going to have very limited time to work on our planes between seasons, so decisions have to be made: Do you leave the plane in Europe [after the season finale in Austria on October 26] and have a company there work on it? Do you air-freight it home to the U.S.? Do you buy a new airplane?”
In the next two weeks, Goulian and his team have to make those decisions amid the intense activity of back-to-back races in the world’s fastest motorsport series. But that’s the way the whole season has been for the 46-year-old from Maynard, Massachusetts, who had sold his racing plane when the series went on hiatus in 2010 and only got it back last October to prepare for the new season. At one race after another this year, it simply didn’t deliver the speed he needed, no matter how he flew or what his mechanics tried.
However, Goulian says, “I’m not one to get demoralized.” Over the course of the season he has strengthened his team and he feels that now their expertise in flight analysis – a key tool to shave off fractions of a second – is about as good as any other team, a major improvement toward beating the odds. So now it’s all about the plane.
He explains, “With our airplane, it’s not just ‘put a little something here, put a little something over there.’ It’s basically a drawing board from spinner to tail. What do you do? Where do you go? What are its weaknesses? Where are its strengths, if any?”
Flashing a smile, Goulian says, “We need to make those decisions and get to work – between now and Christmas, we’ll be pedaling like rockstars!”
Pictures: Joerg Mitter, Balazs Gardi, Sebastian Marko