Alpina Team Goulian at Red Bull Air Race in Budapest
As they prepared for the first European stop of the Red Bull Air Race season on July 1-2, Team Goulian was humming like a well-oiled machine.
The USA’s Michael Goulian won the Budapest stop of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in 2009, the last race in the Hungarian capital before the series went on hiatus. Now the racetracks, rules, and raceplanes have changed, but the American’s passion for the sport is only more intense, and Team Goulian is firing on all cylinders.
The team that flied number 99 is one of the most consistent in a rollercoaster season: only Goulian, Martin Šonka and Matthias Dolderer have managed to advance to the round of 8 in every race so far. And consistency is the name of the game.
Headed to the midpoint of the season with qualifying in Budapest on July 1 and Race Day on July 2, Goulian was tied in the points with Canadian Pete McLeod, who hold fifth place. That was Team Goulian’s strongest position ever at this point in the season, and with five races to go, they were poised to make a bid for the overall podium.
In the round of 8 at the last stop in Japan, Goulian delivered a time of 55.018 seconds, making him the second-fastest pilot over the entire day of racing. Unluckily, he did so in a head-to-head elimination heat against the one man who was even faster, Šonka. The Czech edged out the American by just 0.118 of a second. If Goulian had made the final 4 and replicated his round of 8 time, he would have carried the winner’s trophy back to Massachusetts, so while disappointed, the team took away a positive message.
Michael Goulian wearing Alpina’s new Startimer Pilot. © Predrag Vuckovic
“I like the stride we’ve hit. We’ve been patient, addressing one thing at a time, whether that’s how we work together as a team or something about the raceplane,” says Team Coordinator Pablo Branco. “Now every time Mike goes out and flies, he’s a little faster, a little faster. We’re sticking with the plan and the confidence is switched high.”
Budapest presented a new challenge in 2017, as the pilots had alternative racetrack layouts to study, in order to accommodate fluctuations in the level of the Danube. In a sport where teams spend weeks analyzing a stop’s track design so their pilots can practice in simulators and through visualization, now there are two tracks to learn, and one to try to forget when the final layout is determined just days before the race. Goulian didn’t seem to be fazed.
In this sport, precision and timing are essential! To keep track of his times and constantly improving them, Goulian has partnered up with watch brand Alpina. With Alpina’s new Startimer Pilot watch on his wrist, Goulian and Alpina were present in Budapest looking forward to another amazing performance.