Whelen Motorsports

Americans looking to get in the zone in Chiba Japan at Red Bull Air Race

Mike Goulian • May 18, 2015

CHIBA, Japan - 15th May, 2015 - With their preparations for the Red Bull Air Race in Chiba, Japan condensed due to the interruption of Typhoon Noul earlier this week, and a sold-out crowd of 120,000 spectators expected, American pilots Kirby Chambliss and Michael Goulian know that this weekend is going to be intense. Both are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2014 season that saw Team Chambliss and Team Goulian place tenth and twelfth overall, and getting in the right mindset will be key to their success at the first-ever World Championship stop in Eastern Asia.

"The fact that we’re not going to get a lot of practice time here puts even more of an emphasis on mental preparation," says Chambliss, a two-time title winner in the world’s fastest motorsport series. "I try to visualize myself out there on the track - going around each gate and what it’s going to be like. And of course then you go out there and try to make what you had in your mind a reality."

Goulian, the 2009 race winner in Budapest, regularly works with a sports psychologist.

"It’s really all about how you clear your mind to be able to perform the best on the track," he explains. "Whether you call it being ‘in the zone’ or something else, you want heightened awareness, but you also need to be calm in mind. I’ve gotten to that three times, twice in competition aerobatics and once at the Red Bull Air Race in Budapest. Things get easy - there’s no sense of speed, sound, G, or anything."

Both men must prepare for a racetrack that appears to be relatively simple, which may give the advantage to pilots with the fastest race planes rather than those most adept at using technical skills to shave off fractions of a second in this official world championship of air racing recognized by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

"The racetrack is kind of a straight line almost, so it’s going to be a little bit of a drag race," Chambliss assesses. "It’s definitely not the kind of track that I prefer, but we’ll tape the airplane up to make it as slick as possible and do the best we can."

Goulian, who had already acquired a new race plane before the season opener in Abu Dhabi, has yet another card up his sleeve that may help with that "drag race": a streamlined custom canopy.

"One thing that we didn’t complete before Abu Dhabi was switching from a stock canopy to a racing canopy, so we shipped the canopy here," says Goulian. "It may sound like a small thing, but it’s huge - to order it, fit it, try to make it lighter. It was an effort of about five people and probably 200 man-hours. Our first test flight will be very important."

In the Red Bull Air Race, the world’s top 14 pilots navigate a low-level slalom track made up of 25-meter high air-filled pylons while enduring forces of up to 10g. It is the official World Championship of air racing recognized by the FAI - Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.