Friday, 03 July 2015 12:36
BUDAPEST, Hungary – Team Garmin’s Pete McLeod is confident he can get back on the podium at the fourth stop of the 2015 Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Budapest this weekend after sorting out some problems getting the maximum power out of his engine. The Canadian ace was third in the season opener in Abu Dhabi but has been plagued by an under-performing engine and tough penalties at the wrong time.
“I’m feeling good coming to Budapest but I really don’t have the slightest idea how this race will go,” said McLeod, referring to the highly competitive field at the most spectacular race of the season on the race track set up in the heart of Budapest on the Danube River. “I really need to find myself back in the Final Four on Race Day. I should have been there at the last race in Rovinj.”
Indeed, McLeod was flying brilliantly in the Round of 8 after struggling at times in training and Qualifying. McLeod, who is seventh overall in the 14-pilot championship, seemed to be headed for the Final Four but got booked with what some thought was a harsh penalty that meant American rival Michael Goulian got to the finals.
“I thought I flew well on race day,” he said. “It was disappointing to get a penalty especially when I was so much faster than Goulian in the second lap. I flew the exact lines I wanted. That was as fast as I think I could have flown the track with my plane.”
McLeod and his team have been mystified that their engine – which is supposed to be a standardized power plant for all 14 teams – has not been as powerful on comparable parts of the track as others. The team is growing confident that engine, which they got new at the start of the season, has more power now.
“We think and hope the engine has started to break in,” he said. “It seems like the power gap between my plane and the others’ is closing a bit and that’s great. But the downside is we doubt that gap will disappear totally. That means I’ve been forced to fly very aggressive lines to have anything close to a competitive time. When you take those risks, penalties happen and they are punishing.”
McLeod is nevertheless still in the hunt for the championship of the world's fastest motorsport series in seventh place with nine points but only 16 points behind the leaders with 12 points up for grabs for winning each race.
McLeod, who was a rookie in 2009 the last time the race was held in Budapest, said he was looking forward to the chance to fly in front of the big Hungarian crowds that line the banks of the Danube River and actually look down at times into the river bed to see the planes flying below them.
“I remember flying under the bridge at the start as the highlight of the course,” said McLeod, referring to the starting gate under the Chain Bridge in central Budapest where pilots have about an 8-meter gap between the river and the bridge to fly through. “I didn’t have a very good result but it was tough in 2009 being and rookie. I fully expect a better result here in 2015.”