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Red Bull Pilot Starts Season With Disappointment
By Ian Brown
February 2018 - Canadian Red Bull Air Race pilot Pete McLeod, EAA 714528, had high hopes of repeating his third-place championship finish at the end of last season. Abu Dhabi was the scene of the first race of 2018, with some rule changes this year. Perhaps one that might have benefitted Pete is the penalty rather than disqualification if the pilot exceeds the start gate speed limit of 200 knots. Pete was disqualified for being a fraction of a knot over in a previous season. Now there is a one-second penalty if a pilot goes 1 knot over the limit and a DNF (did not finish) if a pilot is more than 2 knots over. Unfortunately, the season did not start well for our Canadian hopeful. He exceeded maximum g’s, hitting 12.15 briefly, and was disqualified and recorded a DNF. He was beaten in the round of 14 by Yoshihide Muroya’s fastest time of the day at that point. Yoshihide went through the round of eight and then four to finish in second place overall. American Mike Goulian finished first, his second win in nine years.
Several other minor rule changes have focused on safety without unduly penalizing pilots for being slightly over the limit. One change is that a pilot may exceed the 10g limit for 0.6 seconds without penalty. Pilots can cut two pylons in a single race and invoke a three-second penalty for each, but the third would result in a DNF. Not having smoke on for any part of a race is a one-second penalty.
Hopeful star Matthias Dolderer also exceeded maximum g’s, pulling 12.54 at one point, and also received a DNF. Neither Matthias nor Pete were candidates for the “fastest loser” spot in the following round of eight because a DNF means a finish time is not recorded.
Martin Sonka finished third in the round of four, but was pushed back to fourth when a technical infraction was discovered after the races were over. Magneto timing cannot be more than 25 degrees before top dead centre, but his was found to be 28 degrees before TDC. This was probably unintentional but likely gave him an increase in horsepower over the competition.
The season has just begun, so we wish Pete luck in achieving better results for the rest of the season. You can read more about the races in Abu Dhabi on the Red Bull Air Race website.