Strong winds gusting up to 40mph in the New York track prompted cancellation of the first training session ahead of the fifth round of the 2010 Red Bull Air Race World Championship on June 19 and 20, costing the pilots valuable preparation time.
Aside from the anti-climax of not flying, teams were also conscious that reduced practice in the track could hinder the chance of quickly finding the best line through the complex series of gates.
Only points leader Paul Bonhomme (GBR) was given the go-ahead to fly in the track, as he performed the initial assessment of weather conditions in the tight, turning course in front of the Statue of Liberty this morning. “If we’d flown today the main problem would have been the end of the chicane round to gate three and then the reverse of that,” explained Bonhomme, eager to break a spell of third-place finishes with a win in New York.
“The wind is blowing you onto the next gate and although it’s not a big drama you could very easily end up pointing at the gate at the wrong angle. Everybody would be pretty aggressive and I don’t think it’s worth it. I’m glad the Race Committee felt the same.”
Losing valuable training time could pose a problem for some of the less consistent pilots, who openly use the four training sessions to find the right line and experiment with tactics. “You could say it benefits those who fly a disciplined track early on,” Bonhomme speculated. “You definitely see some guys who are all over the place for the first few runs and start warming up on Qualifying day.
"We only get one go, so you cannot go in and fluff it up." –Paul Bonhomme
"For them, maybe it’s a disadvantage. For those who always enter the track on day one and fly a pretty disciplined run, they have the upper hand.”
The ever-consistent Brit admitted he aimed to have the track nailed before he even started the engine of his Edge 540, reducing the need to experiment. By the time he hears the distinctive ‘Smoke On’ call, Bonhomme has already rehearsed each part of the track several times over in his mind, calculating where time can be saved or lost.
“If we were doing 70 laps in the track then clearly the first one wouldn’t be so critical,” Bonhomme confided. “We only get one go, so you cannot go in and fluff it up. If we’re down to training [sessions] three and four tomorrow there’s a chance we’re only going to get four runs through the track before race day. If it rains on Sunday then Quali day is all-important. You might find that you do four runs and then have to pull out the time of your life. You have to think about the track beforehand.”
The teams were gracious about the decision to abandon the training sessions, which were first delayed before the official announcement came from the Race Committee at lunchtime. Bonhomme’s final words echoed those of the other pilots: “We are all in the same situation, so at least it’s fair,” he shrugged. “It’s not like half of us got to fly and half didn’t, so that’s a good thing.”
For more of the news, go to the Red Bull Air Race New York event page.