This isn’t an excuse for making errors

We are in a different position this year to anywhere I have been before in my race career.

Every other year, we had a plane we knew, a plane we had done training and testing on, and a team that was trained with that aircraft. This year, we have received a new type of aircraft, which arrived for the second race, and had two new team members, one joining us from the first race, and the other joining us from the third.

So, with all that in mind at the start of the year, we set some pretty realistic goals – learn and develop for the first half of the year, then start to refine to be able to win a race by the end of the year. This is all aimed at coming out with a well-oiled team and aircraft at the start of 2018.

Although this is often hard to swallow, we have to stick by our guns if we want to be world champion in 2018.

While I hate to use the word ‘impossible’, realistically it was going to be very unlikely we were going to win the world championship this year, though it would be nice to be a contender for the top 3. But, we have to stay on track that the first half of the year was development and testing, which is where we are at right now. We have to avoid looking at the low hanging fruit and trying to get points, and look more at using any time in the aircraft and track as opportunities to test and learn.

In previous years, we would not do anything to the aircraft as we prepared for the first track session. In fact, we would put as an objective ‘aircraft race ready by free practice 1’ (first track session of race week). We would use our corporate knowledge and experience to make sure we had a good line early in the training sessions, then concentrate on repetition and error free flying, up towards the limits. If someone made a mistake in the track, we would capitalise by backing off and getting an easy win, to make sure we got the points for the world champion.

We cannot afford to do this at the moment. If we are not in the track with something changed, and trying to improve the method of my flying style in this aircraft every time I strap in, we are not sticking with our season goals.

At each race, we set new objectives of what we are trying to test, what I am trying to get better at in the aircraft, and what the team is trying to improve as a whole. We need to make sure we are not scared of failure and are prepared to make mistakes in the process of learning. Examples of this from the last race…after track flying on Friday, we were not happy with the weight distribution of the aircraft, so we did a few changes to redistribute the weight and the centre of gravity. That changed the handling of the aircraft, but we had to be prepared to do it then, or wait until the next race to test it.

Then after flying on Saturday, we still had not tested all the settings on our equipment that had been on our race objective list, so we elected to test on race day, knowing that we could be making the aircraft slower. Remember though, this was what we had decided to do at the start of the year, test and refine.

When it came to the Round of 8, we were pitted against Yoshi, and had two options: Fly clean and smooth and penalty free, and hope he made an error; or target my weak area of vertical pulls in this aircraft and see how close I can get to the limit under race conditions. Potential easy points versus having a go and learn.

The decision was easy with our objectives for the year, and so I went into that flight looking head on into learning how to improve my weakness.

So, while this blog is by no means an excuse for making errors, it is an insight as to what we are thinking as a team.

It is hopefully also a reminder to all that read it that sometimes it is necessary to go backward slightly to go forward in your profession, your sport, your life. It is often hard to do as you know you can do better or take the easier path. To be great at something, you have to sacrifice the easy road for the long-term plan, which will ultimately involve some bloody knees, some sad nights, and some frustrations…. but in the end, the success will be worth it.