What Does 2009 Hold for Air Racing's Experienced Pilots? Pt. 1: Positions 9-12

Sheiban ShakeriSenior Analyst IFebruary 24, 2009

The Red Bull Air Race enters its seventh season during April in Abu Dhabi (with the reporter being present at the event).

With a sport being so young and with a new influx of rule changes and rookies, the old order of pilots will be up against the stiff competition that is the four rookies of Matthias Dolderer of Germany, Matt Hall of Australia, Pete McLeod of Canada, and Yoshi Muroya of Japan.

With less than two months to the season opener in Abu Dhabi, I will be taking a look at the experienced crop of Red Bull Air Race pilots from the bottom up.

Glen Dell (RSA)

  • 2008 Position: 12th (0 points).
  • 2008 Race Number: 45 (Same for 2009)
  • 2008 Aircraft: Edge 540
  • 2009 Aircraft: Edge 540
  • 2008 status: Rookie

Glen Dell had a rookie season full of ups and downs and could not register a single point. A disciplined aerobatics pilot to begin with, Dell appeared to have trouble getting into the hang of the sport.

In 2008, he accrued a grand total of 124 seconds in penalties (86 seconds if you were to use the new rules), mainly the result of flying too high between the gates. He touched the gates a grand total of four times, which isn't so bad comparatively.

At first, there was word saying that Glen Dell would switch his equipment to an MXS but it appears that he will stick with the Oklahoma City-built aircraft but get a brand new Lycoming engine to get some more power and speed.

Dell was mainly slow throughout 2008 but there were opportunities where he might have been able to register his first ever championship points such as Budapest where if he had not taken a three-second penalty, Glen Dell would have won the Point One round.

For 2009, Dell needs to be faster, get a better setup and there is the potential of seeing much more out of him this year.

Sergey Rakhmanin (RUS)

  • 2008 Position: 11th (2 points)
  • 2008 Race Number: 18 (Same for 2009)
  • 2008 Aircraft: Edge 540
  • 2009 Aircraft: MXS
  • 2008 Status: Second year in the Red Bull Air Race

Sergey Rakhmanin had improved greatly in 2008 from his 2007 rookie season. With only 30 seconds of penalties taken (20 seconds with the new rules) and no gate touches, Rakhmanin has shown a greater discipline in the sport and was only hindered because of a slow aircraft.

It was believed that Rakhmanin was to be the third pilot to take delivery of a new MXS aircraft later into the 2008 season but that did not materialize for reasons unknown.

Sergey's big achievements came in 2008 by registering his first two points by winning the Point One rounds in Rotterdam and Budapest in an aircraft that was slow by air racing standards.

With the MXS, Rakhmanin has the potential to make it past single points and maybe break onto the podium but it will be at a cost: the MXS is a more sensitive aircraft than the Edge 540 so he might be pushing less at least in the first few races until he gets the hang of his new set of wings.

Michael Goulian (USA)

  • 2008 Position: 10th (16 points)
  • 2008 Race Number: 99 (Same for 2009)
  • 2008 Aircraft: Edge 540
  • 2009 Aircraft: Edge 540
  • 2008 Status: Third year in the Red Bull Air Race

Michael Goulian was a bit of an enigma in 2008. While easily the most approachable and talkative pilot of the twelve, Goulian took home 16 points in 2008—his highest scoring season, yet he was in the lowest position of his Red Bull Air Race career in 10th. He was fifth and eighth in 2006 and 2007 respectively but with much fewer points.

The Bostonian took many unnecessary penalties including a late penalty in the Detroit/Windsor round that could have easily elevated his standing by at least one position.

What should Michael do in 2009? He should take it a little more easy for starters. With 34 seconds worth of penalties including a 10-second gate-touching penalty as well as two disqualifications (Including a close call in London), Goulian could have easily been higher than tenth and take a few more points.

He is keeping much of the same equipment as far as is known and should he keep a cool head in 2009, he can easily register his first win, but that's only if he does a better job of controlling his nerves while in the track.

His strongest moments appeared to have been in the straight-line type tracks of Rotterdam and Porto while he struggled with the twisty technical tracks of Detroit and Perth. Perhaps working more on the technical tracks would put him ahead since it appears that 2009 will be more that than straight-line tracks.

Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA)

  • 2008 Position: 9th (19 points)
  • 2008 Race Number: 27 (Same for 2009)
  • 2008 Aircraft: Extra 300SR
  • 2009 Aircraft: Unknown
  • 2008 Status: Fourth year in the Red Bull Air Race

Nicolas 'Van-der' Ivanoff, as named by Dutch fans because of the orange livery of his aircraft, has had a 2008 season of mostly downs rather than ups. The only bright spot in his 2008 campaign was that of a second place podium position in London against Kirby Chambliss.

Apart from that, Ivanoff has been pretty unlucky coming close to making the fly-offs twice and other times just being off the radar entirely.

The 'Quick Corsican' has stayed loyal with his Extra 300SR, an aircraft that will no longer be used in the 2009 season because of rule changes. As to what aircraft he will use in 2009 is currently unknown.

Clearly, his plane was slow but at times was an asset because of either track conditions or track design. Unfortunately, this asset was only utilized once in London.

Ivanoff is without a shred of doubt a talented pilot but like Rakhmanin and Goulian, was held back because his aircraft just did not have enough power to produce.

I for one believe that if he gets a plane with more power and a better flow, Ivanoff can easily break out into the mid-field in 2009 and maybe capture more hardware for him and his team.

That concludes Part I of my assessment of the experienced Red Bull Air Race pilots. Stay tuned next week for Part II as I cover Peter Besenyei, Steve Jones, Nigel Lamb and Alejandro Maclean; positions 5-8 in the 2008 Red Bull Air Race World Series championship.