I’m writing this in Phoenix where it is warm and sunny… a far cry from the blizzard conditions that we are having at home in the UK this week. Why am I in Phoenix? This is our winter base for 09/10 and where our winter mods will take place… it’s also where the Hammond can be found in his usual habitat of a hangar. Wade is as usual for this time of year working his magic with various projects on the Team 55 race aeroplane. I’d normally now write a short essay on the exact details of our mod plans but as no-one else has spilt the beans on their plans for next year, I’m not going to either! Nor will I be drawn at this stage on how we will be powered around the sky… suffice to say we are talking with some extremely professional engine builders in an attempt to better our less than perfect set-up from last season.
On the subject of modifications, we’re all governed by a technical manual called “part E” which is what the Red Bull Air race technical committee have published which sets out what we can and can’t do to the aeroplanes. Broadly speaking, it allows us to individually modify the aeroplanes to make them go faster but staying within the bounds of safety… the big difference with this type of racing over ground based racing is that if we suffer an engine failure we can’t just pull over to the side of the track. Normally we’re over water or at the very least land that is not designed to be a runway. Hence the need for rules which keep our aeroplanes and engines reliable (as reliable as any machine can be) to lessen the risk. So for our winter mods we can’t just modify the aeroplane as we like, we have to consult the technical folks at Red Bull who’ll decide whether or not our plans fit into the “safe” category or not… the fun here is the need for information and it goes without saying that we’re all very keen to know what the others are up to. A good sport at this time of year is rumour spreading… like any rumour, you start it and see how long it takes to get back to you and in what form. I’ve just started one today about a radical new modification… see if you can read about it somewhere in the next week or so… (actually someone is doing it and we’re waiting to see if it works and the rumour might pick up some facts on the way round!)
Rule changes for 2010: next year there will be a minimum pilot weight of 82 kgs… this is very good news for the heavier pilots amongst us (Kirby Chambliss, Alex Maclean and me) as those who are less than 82 kgs will have to add weight to the aircraft if they’re lighter than the minimum. Of course, if you’re heavier than 82 then it’s time to lose weight… and Christmas is a great time to try and do that! It’ll be great for the race as it’ll even up the field and we can expect to see even closer times than we saw last year.
The last month has been fairly hectic… I attended the BBC East Sports awards in Newmarket on the 8th December and then the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award at Sheffield on the 13th December. Great to be in the company of so many top sports legends and it crossed my mind that the room was full of people who know how to win… who know how to get the best out of themselves and to apply that to their chosen sport… you’d be on to a winner if you could tap that experience and successfully apply it to your own sport. I concluded that the one common feature of all those who attended was their determination and will to win. I don’t suppose any of them just stumbled onto their success…
Laura and I got married in November… what a wonderful day and topped off with the most bizarre of wedding day endings… I helped turn on the Christmas lights in my original home town of Maidenhead and then we went to White Waltham airfield where I thought we were meeting friends for a curry (great idea for a wedding night don’t you think!)… actually Laura had organized a surprise party for me to celebrate my win in the Air Race… upwards of 200 people were there and what a night… folks came from Chicago and Hong Kong as well as just about everywhere else and we “hit it with a big stick” (“partied hard” for those of you who don’t know the phrase)… an even better plan for a wedding night!
As the end of year holiday approaches, Team Bonhomme would like to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of our fans and followers… THANK YOU SO MUCH for your support and kind messages throughout the year. It really does give us a boost to know that we’re being pushed over the line by your enthusiasm! As for your support for 2010, we’re going to have a great line-up of races… confirmed so far is Abu Dhabi 25/26 March; we’re going back to Australia and will be in Perth on 17/18 April and as always we’ll be racing in Budapest on their National Holiday of 20th August (19th for qualifying). A new venue of Lisbon has been confirmed for 4/5 September. The other races will be confirmed by the middle of January but I’ve been told to expect a total of between 8 to 10 races.
Enjoy the Festive season and we’ll update you on our progress early in the New Year…