Friday, 15 May 2015 11:42
(CHIBA, Japan) 15th May, 2015 – Pete McLeod will need to pull out all the stops and hope for a bit of luck to get Garmin Racing team on the podium at Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Chiba, Japan to make up for a baffling shortage of power in the engine of his Edge 540 V3 race plane. The Canadian overcame the problems caused by the underperforming engine at the season opener in Abu Dhabi with a solid third place but still can’t figure out what the problem is.
“It’s super frustrating,” McLeod said ahead of Qualifying on Saturday for the first-ever race in Japan in front of a weekend sold-out crowd of 120,000 spectators. “I’m not really happy with the engine. The hope is that it’s not fully broken in after being refurbished in the off season and that maybe it will start to make more power. We’ll just have to wait and see and hope to get some more time with the engine. But there’s not a lot we can do immediately.”
McLeod, who last year frequently set the pace in certain sectors of the racetrack, said that this season his plane was lagging behind most of the others in every sector at the first race in Abu Dhabi. He said even on straight sections right after the start – when all planes enter the track at the same speed of 370 km/h – his plane was falling behind. That is an ominous indication that something is not right with the engine – even though all the pilots fly with standardized engines that are supposed to level the playing field.
“You see it in the sector times and can get a good picture of the overall airplane performance,” said McLeod, who added that even though all the engines leave the factory in pretty much the same shape some pilots have had their engines refurbished in different shops that might have found ways to coax a tiny bit more power out of them. “I know what I’m capable of and I don't usually lose time like this on these sectors.”
McLeod, who arrived in Japan a few days early to try to see some sights with his wife and adjust to the jet lag more gradually, said that his Garmin Racing team is as bewildered as he is. “When your airplane is underperforming, you are losing a little bit of time in every sector. I’m confident that it’s the engine. We feel we’re just not flying as fast as last year.”
McLeod, who got his first career win in Las Vegas last year, managed to squeeze every ounce of piloting ability and experience out in Abu Dhabi to advance all the way to the Final Four and ended up third – a satisfying result considering the difficulties.
“That’s part of competing – you don’t just give up,” he said. “You still have to go out and win and fly as fast as you can and use good tactics or anything else available to win. Even if you have a faster plane you have to do all those things. I’m just hoping to fly as cleanly as possible and we’ll see what happens.”