The 2017 Red Bull Air Race calendar gets underway over the Arabian Gulf this weekend with the diamond 75th race since the series began. 14 pilots will compete with improved race plane technology gained in the off-season to make the series even more competitive.
“The teams have been arriving with exceptional focus and determination, and the pilots are eager to add their names to the 10-year legacy here by winning this 75th World Championship race,” commented Erich Wolf, General Manager of Red Bull Air Race GmbH. “Abu Dhabi is closely associated with the best in motorsport, so you can be sure that the racing will set a high standard for the season.”
The North Americans in the Master Class, Pete McLeod of Canada, Kirby Chambliss and Mike Goulian from the USA arrived las week as did fellow American and Challenger Class member Kevin Coleman. Goulian told his his Facebook followers, “We’re more excited about our potential for 2017 than any other year by a large amount.”
McLeod, who’s plane has an icy new look is exploring any advantage posting a photo and telling his social media followers, “Counting triangles and having my ‘biofeedback’ measured at the Redbull DTC on Day 1. Anything to go faster!”
Chambliss, who like the others has made some modifications to his race plane said, “The 2017 air race season is officially here, and boy, does it feel good to be back! A lot of preparations and an eleven-hour time difference brings the team to Abu Dhabi two weeks prior to race day. And while we’ve all been struggling with the time zone adjustment, we couldn’t keep our feet off the ground during jet-lag compensation day!” Specifically addressing the plane he said, “A lot of hard work was put in during the off season and we’re ready to put our mods to the test! The team’s 2016-2017 “off season” was, in the words of Paulo, “INTENSE”! Due to the shipment requirements to Abu Dhabi, just one month was given to complete everything on our checklist! This year we had three main goals: reduce weight, increase control over engine temperature, and develop winglets to better fit the racing environment.”
To that end Kirby isn’t giving away too much but added, “We’ve learned throughout the years that the engine needs to be at a certain temperature to produce the correct power. Because it is air-cooled, we needed to find a more efficient way to cool the cylinder heads and the oil. Previously, this was all done as one system. Modifications to the cowling last year improved cooling, but ideally, we wanted to have oil cooling and cylinder cooling separated into two systems. Paulo was able to design a new system that allows just that. Again, I will not give away any numbers, but this is WAY better than it was for the 2016 season. Jason’s also happy because the new system makes his life much easier during ferry flights!”
Winglet development continues with all the teams and Chambliss has improved his adding, “Through a lot of data analysis, we found that our winglets were doing their job throughout the turns in the race track. However, they created quite a lot of drag when trying to fly a straight line. With the help of good friend Jac Van Egmond, lead aerodynamicist of mvAERO (mvaero.nl), Paulo created a whole new design to optimize the overall energy saved. These new winglets have proven to be good not only in our simulations, but also during the in-flight flow visualization. As you can see, it was a BUSY month! A lot of time, a lot of work, but also a lot of fun! And now? A lot of expectations for the 2017 season!”
The Americans watched the Super Bowl from Abu Dhabi, Challenger Cup pilot Kevin Coleman tweeted, “Getting ready for the first race of the year, I’m stoked the Patriots won the Super Bowl. But it also shows in sports it’s not over til it’s over,” and via Instagram added, “Time to go to work and pick up where we left off.”
Meanwhile Matthias Dolderer of Germany will look to continue where he left off when he claimed the 2016 title with dominant consistency. But across nine seasons so far, only one pilot (Great Britain’s Paul Bonhomme, who is now a Red Bull Air Race commentator) has ever managed to capture two crowns consecutively.
Among the unpredictable factors in what looks to be a tight season are two new Master Class pilots – Cristian Bolton of Chile and Mika Brageot of France – who together combine for more applicable experience than any previous newcomers thanks to training in the Challenger Cup and the Master Mentoring Program. Meanwhile, in the Challenger Class, look for Kevin Coleman to be strong again competing against three new members in 2017 including the first Red Bull Air Race pilot from China.
For a refresher on the rules of the Red Bull Air Race series watch the video below.
Red Bull Air Race 2017 Calendar:
February 10-11: Abu Dhabi, UAE
April 15-16: San Diego, USA
June 3-4: Chiba, Japan
July 1-2: Budapest, Hungary
July 22-23: Kazan, Russia
August 12-13: TBA, Europe
September 2-3: TBA, Europe
October 14-15: Indianapolis, USA