Thoughts on Texas Motor Speedway Air Race
Posted on: 5th Oct 2015 by: Nigel Lamb
Fort Worth was a roller coaster to say the least! In hindsight, changing the elevator this year was a mistake, but only because we did not have time to set it up well and then have time for me to get used to it. The highly competitive nature of this sport means that teams are always evolving and improving; you can’t just stand still and I know that a different, well setup elevator will improve the pitching capability of the MXS. At the start of the week, we installed the 2014 elevator and balanced it exactly as it was for last year to see if I could re-capture some of our form and consistency. My times were better than they’ve been all year but still not good enough. Many of the sectors were great but the two vertical turns were my weakest point. To set a competitive time, the Fort Worth track demanded a high-risk gate angle strategy with late rolling into those gates, especially G8. Having worked with Max I felt really positive going into Qualifying but, a 2 second penalty for incorrect level in Gate 8 and poor G traces in the VTMs pushed me near the bottom of the qualifying group in 11th. A penalty comes with 10 degrees bank angle; at 360 deg/s, that’s a 0.03 sec judgement . . . small margins!
And so, for the third time this season, it was MXS vs MXS; Lamb against Matt Hall for the Round of 14 the following day. Having won one and lost one I was keen to get the better of Matt again. Being first to fly, the only option was to really push to the limits; leave no margins and hope for a clean round. In the warm up a couple of minutes before running in, the elevator feel just came back to me . . .like a long-lost friend. At last I felt I could put in a quick time. When I look at my video re-play, it’s uplifting to see a no margins run with excellent Gz traces and very high gate angles. To knock three seconds off my best training run was a huge boost and breaking 55 secs with what turned out to be the track record brought the best on-track feeling I’ve had all year. After a testing season it was a great relief for the whole team and I relished seeing so many smiling faces in our hangar. Matt Hall went through as the fastest loser and I was up against Martin Šonka in the next Round.
The round of 8 required four plans: my competitor makes a mistake; or not. The wind changes; or not. Martin got a penalty and the wind picked up so a conservative run was required. Less gate angle on G7 – G8 and some allowance for the wind. The problem is, if you go too conservative, you can easily lose your rythm and flow; it’s diabolically easy to leak too much time away and make a simpler kind of mistake. Sadly, in line what has been a character-building season, I picked up a 2 second penalty for incorrect level flying at the Finish Gate. That rolling 0.03 sec again. Again, so nearly in the Final 4 but . . .
It’s been a frustrating season but, by finding form in Ft Worth, we head for Las Vegas with added confidence that we’ve finally got the set up right. What we will do in the winter months has fallen into place and I’m looking forward to next season.
The flame is burning bright!