Fatiguing, overwhelming, exhilarating, emotional, satisfying….just a couple of words to explain how the last two weeks of my life played out.
The race week in Perth was one of the hardest weeks I have endured in my life to date. The pressures and stress levels I felt were similar to those I experienced while in combat. A great deal of work to be done, having to make some pretty hard decisions on the future, a patriotic desire to do well and scared beyond belief of making a mistake.
It was also a difficult week for the race in general, which pushed a lot of aspects we knew one day would be tested, but kept our fingers crossed and in our ears all the same.
Adilson Kindleman crashed his MXSR N19MX (for those into detail, you will recognize this as my 2009 aircraft) into the Swan while turning at low level between gate 2 and 3. Ironically, I had discussed this turn with the media and Adilson himself regarding the difficulties of this turn. Unfortunately when Adilson crashed, the conditions were about as bad as one could imagine for that turn…a 20 knot tailwind. The fortunate result was due to all of our training, survival equipment and the professionalism of the rescue teams, Adilson was breathing the rescue diver’s scuba air 40 seconds after impact and was on the rescue boat after approximately 80 seconds. What would normally be a deadly crash, proved that the Air Race is moving forward as the number one professional motorsport, as we re-entered the track the following morning for more training.
Regarding my track training and racing…that too was up and down. We were struggling to set the Centre of Gravity (CoG) correctly, as we had excess weight to put in the aircraft, though had put a lighter engine in, and a larger battery behind my seat. It came down to trial and error in the track. Unfortunately, as the CoG moves rearward, the aircraft becomes unstable, which resulted twice in me G Stalling the aircraft and getting an over G which forced me out of the track and training. We finally came up with an acceptable solution on Saturday morning before Qualifying, which I took into the track with a conservative attitude to see how it felt. It all felt good, we qualified seventh, with a strong knowledge I could knock time off the following day. As I sat in the hotel room on Saturday evening with my wife, I told her I thought I could knock 3 seconds off my time…I was wrong….I knocked 3.5 seconds off and gained my best result to date in front of a very supportive home crowd.
Overall, the week ended well. The support was absolutely amazing, the atmosphere electric. I can not imagine a more fitting result for the fans both at the race and watching live on TV…well maybe first place, but we will give that a go next year!!
Lastly, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my technician Lenny for getting the plane ready to race in North Carolina this year and continuing to improve it with me to get this fabulous result. As it turns out, it was a fitting end as Lenny is now moving back full time to his own home and business in Arizona. Lenny will be replaced by Jack Moshovis, Perth born and bred, and setting the team up for the first time as a full Aussie team. Thanks to both Lenny and Jack for the past and the promising future.
See you in a few weeks in Brazil!!!