Mathias Dolderer’s team monitors the performances of other competitors, hoping to offer him
advice on a better line or approach.
OFF TO THE RACES
Late Sunday morning Brad Huelsman is performing the Red Bull
ritual of taping the airframe on McLeod’s aircraft, covering screw
heads and gaps between panels with long strips of tape, carefully
popping any air bubbles.
“3M likes us to do this because this special tape is $270 a roll,” he
says, before addressing the upcoming contest. “The reality is, this is
an older plane. Pete’s flying well, but there’s three seconds between
us and the leaders, and that’s a big gap.”
The same calculus of competition is going on in other hangars.
Only 12 of the 15 teams are active for the New York race, so the elimi-
nation round to reduce the field to 12 isn’t needed this week.
Successive heats will winnow the 12 down to a Super Eight and then
the Final Four, who will compete for podium spots.
The Russian team—TT Antanas Marciukaitis and TC Philipp
Kalitin—watch the monitor stoically as pilot Sergey Rakhmanin
turns in an uncompetitive time.
Activity intensifies for teams remaining in contention. Fewer
planes in each round means faster turnaround times. As soon as
planes roll to a stop after their runs, oil access doors are popped
open and boxed fans are placed atop to cool motors and prevent
vapor lock. If a pilot can’t restart the engine—as happened to Team
Goulian in Abu Dhabi earlier in the season—the team is disqualified.
Teams appear remarkably calm. At Team Arch’s hangar, Vito
Wyprachtiger exudes quiet confidence, bolstered in part by the
Formula One race car data system installed in their aircraft and the
data engineer, aerodynamicist Peter Leitl, who joined the team
“We get about 10 times more data than the other guys,” Vito says
of the system. “Our data engineer knows where to look and what
he’s looking for, and he’s been coming to me and saying, ‘I figured
out if you fly this line here, you’ll be faster.’ Even if another team gets
[the system], they need to learn how to use it, and where to look in
25 different data sets. It’s not like you just push one button and you
Eliminated teams find kernels of hope in
James Wynbrandt, EAA 568059, is a writer
and multi-engine instrument rated pilot. He lives
in New York City and flies a Mooney M20K 252. Visit
www.SportAviation.org for links to videos of the Red Bull Air
Racers in action.