Months of preparation in the Pete McLeod Racing camp was put into action for the 2009 RBARWC season opener in Abu Dhabi, April 17-18. Despite the constant challenge of daily temperatures soaring into the 40's and the odd sand storm, Abu Dhabi proved to be a spectacular location for Pete's debut race.
"Arrival into the temporary runway (TRW) on the Arabian Gulf, in downtown Abu Dhabi was something really special for me. It's been a long road to get here and this landing is something I'll always remember," Pete said of the team's relocation to the race runway, just days before the race. Sunny skies and light winds welcomed the pilots for training days 1 & 2 leading up to the race. "Entering the race track for the first time was as spectacular as it was challenging.
We had a boat tour that morning and it was amazing how tight the track looked." Pete progressed well through the training with constant improvement in lines and time. "Every time I go through the track it opens up. I'm learning the fast lines quickly, but there is a lot to learn".
While Pete's flying was progressing well, the training sessions made it apparent the No. 84 race plane was much slower than expected, "I knew we would not be putting the fastest plane into the track, but I must admit I'm surprised how many seconds we are giving up because of the slow plane. It's frustrating, but at the same time it forces me to fly more precisely, while others can get away with more mistakes and let a fast plane carry them."
Pete entered qualifying with a clear aim, "I'll be happy if I fly my race, and for today that means clean runs and a time close to 1:40". As the qualifying run approached the winds increased to a level where they were considered to be fairly strong. Despite the fact the wind made the course so challenging that a record was set for most pylon hits on a qualifying day, Pete flew a technically excellent race and didn't hit a pylon or incur any penalty points. In addition he flew under his target time goal. As a result, Pete qualified 12th and proved he could be in contention to progress through the wildcard round into the top 12 on race day.
Race day and the pressure was heating up. Dolderer and Dell posted great times in the wild card ahead of Pete. "I was in the hold and heard the times, I knew it would be tough to beat with my plane and I would have to take more aggressive lines and go for it". Entering the track and through the first set of gates, attention was raised as Pete was posting a textbook speed run, with some of the tightest lines of the race. Through the first split Pete had a commanding 1 second lead over the fasted time and looked to have control of a position in the next round. Out of the quarto, Pete took a direct line to gate 6, and to the shock of everyone had a pylon hit! Pete's day came to a quick end as he had rare case of pylon debris stuck on the wing and had to abandon his run for safety reasons. "I really had the throttle open and was dialed in for that run. My pylon hit was a true rookie mistake, I got ahead of the plane and took a hit on one of the easier gates of the track. The aggressive line I took played the wind different and I paid the price. But hey, this is racing, when you push hard sometimes you find the limit." Pete received a SCO (Safety Climb Out) result with no final time on race day. Next race is San Diego, CA, May 9-10.
Abu Dhabi is capital of the United Arab Emirates, and is the largest of the seven emirates. This second most populous city of the UAE lies on a T-shaped island, with its futuristic skyscrapers rising from the desert coast of the Persian Gulf. Abu Dhabi is one of the most prosperous and rapidly developing cities in the world. In just over half a century it has become a major centre for tourism, as well as transforming from a small Bedouin village into a thriving investment enterprise.