SALZBURG, Austria â€“ The long awaited unveiling of the new generation Edge 540 V3 took place last month with Austriaâ€™s Hannes Arch at the controls for a series of test flights ahead of the season opener in Abu Dhabi on 26-27 March. Flying from the Zivko Aeronatics base in Oklahoma, USA, the former world champion was filled with confidence as he prepared to start the 2010 season with a calculated change in race strategy.
â€œI had the first flight in mid-February, not long before we had to ship the aeroplane to Abu Dhabi,â€ explains the pilot who narrowly lost out on the 2009 title in a fierce battle with winner Paul Bonhomme that lasted the entire season. â€œVery quickly, from the first moment onwards, I could see the very big potential of the new aircraft. There was a definite change from the old Edge and everything we tried to accomplish with the new aircraft worked out so far.â€
Eric Zivko, the â€˜man in the white coatâ€™ behind the development of the Edge 540 race machine was satisfied the test flying went according to plan. As a non-flyer himself, Zivko values the detailed feedback from the race pilots and believes this objectivity allows him to concentrate on the science behind the design.
â€œTest flying went very well,â€ he says of the lighter, more manoeuvrable machine. â€œThe only small issue we encountered was with aileron feel. At the end of the day we returned to an almost â€˜stockâ€™ set-up. The remainder of testing went according to plan running into no other issues. Hannes was great during test flying. After returning from a flight there was a fairly long debrief along with written notes from the flight detailing speeds, Gs, altitudes, engine temps etc.â€
Working closely with Zivko Aeronautics, Arch and his team had a specific goal in mind when developing this designed-for-racing machine. With refined aerodynamics and a significant reduction in weight the new generation raceplane will give Arch the opportunity to further push the technical boundaries of the sport.
â€œThe tail group remains the same with the wing being modified only enough to accept different wingtip designs, based on race course designâ€ explains Zivko of the structural changes to the V3. â€œFuselage aerodynamics however have completely changed. We replaced the previously fabric-covered portion with a carbon fibre fairing; this is to improve aerodynamics under high angles of attack. The fuselage shape was optimised around the stock, structural tubing inside. You will note much more flowing lines from the propeller spinner all the way to the rudder.â€
Arch says he and his team merely â€œadded their own spicesâ€ to the mix when it came to the evolution of the V3 but there was always a vision in mind. The teamâ€™s desire to incorporate technology from other motor racing disciplines clearly underpins their technical strategy.
â€œBasically we have focused on the aerodynamics, itâ€™s much lighter and although you could say what does this matter when we have a minimum race weight, it means that we can put a lot of electronics and instruments onboard,â€ continues Arch. â€œLike data monitoring equipment. Iâ€™m the first team going down that road in a really professional way. Like in F1, we are working with Cosworth, the leading company doing that. For sure there wonâ€™t be an immediate benefit but it will be a long term advantage for the future.â€
INVESTING IN THE FUTURE
In addition to allowing for more instruments on board, reducing the weight of the airframe will also give Arch the chance to alter the Centre of Gravity of the Edge from race to race.
â€œNow we can shift the weight in the aeroplane to shift the C of G it means we can trim the aeroplane to the track we are flying. In car racing they can trim for a fast track or a turning track and now I can do the same.â€
Arch says he has had time to evaluate last seasonâ€™s performance and has realigned his focus. He admits he may have taken too many risks last year and in 2010 plans to take a step back. After blowing the title with a disastrous pylon hit in the Barcelona final, it seems the Austrian has bounced back with a refreshing degree of self-awareness.
â€œIâ€™m not perfect, I can make mistakes and wrong tactics but I am convinced that we must move forward in a more professional way,â€ he admits. â€œLast year I cared too much, I was in a position where I opened up too much and others could stress me. Instead of just doing my job I was worrying too much about what the others were doing. On the other hand I was trying to defend the title so I had to stress. One tactical mistake was maybe risking too much in the track. If you fly towards the limits of getting a penalty, sure youâ€™re faster than the other pilots but you also risk that penalty. That was the wrong tactic last year.â€
Back in his native Austria for the teamâ€™s 2010 media launch last week, the 42-year-old was looking particularly relaxed. Based at the LÃ¼rzer Ferien Hotels in the Austrian mountains, Arch cleared his head with the help of the fresh Alpine air.
â€œHere I have the perfect conditions to recharge my batteries and prepare myself for Abu Dhabi,â€ he said after his demo flight in the Alpine village of Obertauem, where race pylons framed the snow-filled landscape. â€œNow it is time to leave the powder snow here in Austria and head off to the boiling conditions in Abu Dhabi. For me, racing there is like racing at home. Of course people are expecting another top result after my win there in 2009 but the starting field is much closer than in the past â€“ all of the pilots have worked hard on themselves and moved onto the next level. The most important thing for me is that I am not only looking to 2010 â€“ itâ€™s about a long term future.â€