If you like racing you’d have loved this morning’s Formula 1 Gold heat race. Justin Phillipson put on a masterful display of racecraft to net the best second place finish a man could hope to earn.
It was a three-way duel, Phillipson getting the hole shot from the outside of the front row in his classic-looking but featherweight Shoestring he calls No Strings Attached. Faster accelerating than Josh Watson on the pole in Fraed Naught and Justin Meaders in Limitless just off his left wing, Phillipson did exactly what he had to do: out drag both of his front row competitors and be the first into pylon one.
But if No Strings Attached has the acceleration, Fraed Naught and Limitless have the top speed. Expectations were both of these planes would be walking around the outside of Phillipson somewhere around the second or third lap. Phillipson had other ideas. Flying a low, level and white-on-rice tight course Phillipson countered his competitor’s speed with a shorter distance. He was in the right place, flying a super tight, ultra consistent, error-free line that proved surprisingly tough to get around.
If you were a race pilot following Phillipson this morning you knew school was in session.
Trying the hardest was Watson in Fraed Naught. Lap after lap Watson would gain on the straights, bend into the turns with Phillipson but, especially from our vantage point, rise up and wide in turn one and likely in the western or turn two. Phillipson would inch ahead to be followed by another drag race down the straights.
You had to feel for Phillipson. The outcome was clear; he could only hold off a distinctly faster competitor for so long. But at the same time we could only think of Watson who’s relatively new to Fraed Naught. Hardly an easy plane to fly, Fraed Naught needs an experienced, patient hand on the stick to tease out its speed. This is typical in purebred small race planes—the hot Biplane Phantom is another good example of a plane with blazing speed, but a nature the average pilot might charitably define as nervous. It takes plenty of experience to get the most out to then.
Additionally, Watson was fighting off the effects of an eye-widening start. Wake turbulence at the worst time—low, slow and jockeying for position—left him with little appetite to mix it up down in the dirt with Phillipson.
As for Meaders, he flew a high and wide race, seemingly content to have the best seat in the house for a fabulous race, but we know better. Meaders—a crafty racer we assure you—was down on speed, “He only saw 260 mph on the straights instead of 270,” was the word from his crew. They were busy pulling the prop through looking for a soft cylinder but weren’t finding it post-race.
So, today it was Watson, Phillipson and Meaders in the top three spots. Sunday could be different, and interesting.