On a personal level, the Big Sky Air Race was only my second time at any race venue.
3 weeks previous I had a lot of fun, but knew I blew the turns and wandered off track. This race,
I was exhausted from trying to ensure we had a safe and fun event. My wife Kris even asked if I was really going to run. I
assured her; I would be safe and abort if I wasn't mentally ready. My goal was simple, be safe and improve on my 177kts.
As I sat in Aurora prepping, I saw a friend moving my direction. I lowered the canopy and waved him off. With <5minutes
to engine start…..I had to focus.
Headset on, race briefing on the seat, the world seemed
calm for the first time in several days. Nerves were on high alert as I shoved the throttle forward.
I crossed the start line, I looked for Race 26 but he was gone. A 1 minute head start and I was already 3 miles behind.
All alone again, I scanned my panel where's the best power today?, what's the best altitude?
Where's that white RV?
Turn 2 already! About 6 minutes later I'm approaching turn 3 and
wondering why I haven't heard Mike T, when I hear "Race26 turn 3". 20seconds later I call "Race 155 turn
3" and there in the weeds….a white slit of wings, the prey is trying to escape.
don't seem to gain anything before turn 4 and I as I bank hard for the tight turn 5, my only thought is "I hope the
folks below are getting a good show" so I wave as I drive for the water at about 195kts.
26 is visible against the Big blue sky of Montana. Still don't seem to be gaining, but stay at 200'agl hoping for
the cool lake to give me horsepower.
Turn 7 coming up, I am more focused than ever. About 5 seconds
separation at the turn, Mike asks if I have him in sight. Oh yeah, I have radar lock. A few seagulls try to run intercept
for Mike, but I dismiss them and continue on.
I make a perfect turn 8, as I see Mike climb a
touch. He's probably hoping for that west wind to come over the ridge and give him some help. I want to follow, but he's
not pulling away so I stay down. He drops down in front of me as I inch closer.
Now what, I've
never passed anyone before so don't know the proper etiquette. I move right and tell him I'm passing on his right
side wide. His response was a subdued, "I figured"
I drift back on course and start
climbing slowly to clear the ridge. I go wide off course a bit, to avoid the downdraft that surely awaits anyone crossing
to the right of the peak. I have no idea where Race 26 is at this point, but hope for the best.
tweak the mixture and fiddle with the prop while in a slight descent. I think about this time I see 202KTAS on the Dynon.
Turn 9 in sight when I hear "are you lost or am I?" I call back "I don't know?"
and followed by "Race 155 turn 9" the wide route wins again.
From there I was enjoying
Crossing the finish line, I finally let out a breath that I had been holding for 42min45sec.
WHEW I did it.
I hit my goals…Safe flight, mind was clear
and I averaged 184kts.
My Bonus: I passed the SARL National chairman. **
Carroll, Race 155
** Ed note: That seems to happen with some regularity, Brian...