No margin for error

Posted on: 16th Jun 2009

No margin for error Congratulations to Paul Bonhomme for an excellent win in tough conditions. What a week it was! Peter Besenyei’s incident was a reminder of the more important things in life. Sometimes we get too engrossed in the trivia of life and tend to forget how important the basics are ... like good health, friendships and love of family. But if our species had never bothered to focus beyond the basics, we wouldn’t be where we are now. So, somehow, I guess it’s a matter of getting the balance right .... attention to detail without consigning life’s fundamentals to the bin. And so it is with air racing. Of course, survival is paramount, but there’s a lot going on besides that needs attention. We’re all competitive and only one pilot will be really happy after each race. So, no matter where you come from second down, you need to get life in perspective and move on. Given my aspirations for this season, 8th in a race felt like a bit of a disaster but in the grand scheme of things, disaster is not the right word and there’s plenty to be positive about . I was very happy with the T12. 6th place despite a 2 secs penalty (deserved .. too little bank in the first quadro) with the third fastest raw time. A really good chance to be in the final. Chaos reigned in the S8 .. the wind had became westerly for the first time all week and what that meant was an easier chicane (less ground speed) but a tougher quadro. I knew this and had discussed it with the team before take-off. What the first pilots in the Super 8 did not realise was that the strength of the westerly had increased since the T12, further reducing the margin. I had plenty of thinking time in the hold as yet another pylon had been downed, courtesy of Mike Mangold. I wish it had been in the quadro as that really would have rung the alarm bells! Anyway, because I still had 4 pilots to fly after me, the plan I made before running in was to ‘go for it’. A no margins flight. I was determined not to go home missing the finals by a fraction because of caution. My first Quadro was a 6.42.... 0.9 secs faster than anyone else and the fastest of the day margin at all and when I review the cockpit cam, I was lucky to make it. In the second, which is flown in the opposite direction, the wind ensured that I ran out of space. There was nothing left. A tiny increase in angle of attack and I was in the buffet and wide of the quadro. With hindsight I should have been sharper....because two of the previous pilots had done a safety climb out (SCO), had I done a 360 turn and flown back through the quadro and simply finished the course, I would have had 2 more points and be sitting in 4th place with a 4 point gap to third. Perhaps I should have called SCO as I pulled up? Whatever. Basically, it was bad planning and awareness but then I have never missed the track before and this scenario was embedded anywhere in any mental plan, previous or present. How wonderful hindsight can be! However I feel, the worst decision must have been from Matt Hall. He was flying 5th and had all but beaten the 4 previous pilots before he ran in. All he had to do was post a 1:18.61 or better and he was into the final. He’ll definitely be mad with himself for that. So, how does it feel? Not great of course but, given Nicolas’ points, the podium is still within reach. Third is not exactly the spot I was aiming for at the beginning of the season but that’s racing 2009. I also learned a couple of valuable lessons which I hope I can use effectively in the second half of the season. We have many plans for improvements to the MXS when it arrives in England before Budapest and should be more competitive in a few aspects of performance. There’s a lot to do in the next few weeks to make that happen so, it’s time to crack on. By the way, trivial as it may seem, like all the pilots, I do wish they’d reserve “DSQ” for something bad .... like dangerous flying or cheating. How can flying wide of the track be classified in the same category?