After earning his first overall podium with third place in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship last season, Ontario’s Pete McLeod is back in action at the 2018 opener in Abu Dhabi this Friday and Saturday – and looking to move even higher.
“For me, the Red Bull Air Race is an expression of some of the greatest things in life – speed, extreme performance and world-class competition, and doing it all in an airplane,” says McLeod, who opens his seventh season in the sport over Abu Dhabi’s famed Corniche on 2-3 February.
Joining him in the hangar are the four colleagues who contributed to McLeod’s breakout success in 2017: technician Patrick “Pat” Phillips, team coordinator Charlotte Sandgaard, tactician Jeff “Hacker” Hack and technical assistant Mark Hindley. Together the team pulled off a remarkably consistent campaign, including third place at the season opener, four consecutive pole positions mid-season, a string of three consecutive second-place finishes, and a decisive win of the season’s DHL Fastest Lap trophy.
Most exciting for Canadian fans, McLeod was in a four-way battle for the World Championship crown right up until the eighth and final race, and he edged out a two-time titleholder to claim his place on the podium. Having grown up flying in all kinds of conditions in the Canadian wilderness, the pilot has always been a natural in the air, but this was a new level of performance, even for him.
McLeod says, “The 2017 season was a career best for me in the standings and a strong year across the board. The team and partners supporting me were very strong, and I was able to focus on racing as a result.”
While the Canadian is the first to admit that a new season is a clean slate, it is clear that he is feeling confident as he arrives in Abu Dhabi. And it is a great location to start: McLeod has taken home a total of three third-place trophies from the Emirates capital in the past.
Insiders are saying that with pilot skills and raceplane technology at an all-time high, the 2018 season is likely to be the most competitive ever seen in the Red Bull Air Race. When asked how he thinks the standings will shake out when it all wraps up next November, McLeod is reluctant to make predictions. “I like to take the season one race at a time,” he answers, “but I will say this: our goal for 2018 is more speed, more podiums and of course more points!”
Red Bull Air Race 2018 Calendar
2-3 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
21-22 April: Cannes, France
26-27 May: Asia, location TBA
23-24 June: Budapest, Hungary
4-5 August: Asia, location TBA
25-26 August: Kazan, Russia
6-7 October: Indianapolis, USA
November: Europe, location TBA
About Red Bull Air Race
Created in 2003, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship has held more than 80 races around the globe. The Red Bull Air Race World Championship features the world’s best race pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight racing planes, pilots hit speeds of 370kmh while enduring forces of up to 10G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons. In 2014, the Challenger Cup was conceived to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class that vies for the World Championship.