Top Racers meet Top Guns
It really was a case of “aces high” following the recent Champ Car World Series season-ending event in Mexico City. After providing high-speed passenger rides to 40 excited individuals in the course of the three-day festival of speed, two of the Champ Car F1x2 “aces” – Zsolt Baumgartner and Mario Dominguez – met up with aces of a slightly different kind and, for once, became excited passengers themselves.
Zsolt and Mario travelled north to Cold Lake, Alberta, home of the Canadian Armed Forces 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron. This was in order to fulfill a reciprocal arrangement that dated back to July of this year, when pilots from the Squadron, performing the race day fly-past at the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton, were passengers in the F1x2 cars.
The drivers spent three days in Cold Lake, touring the base, meeting Squadron personnel, having flight gear and seat fittings, “flying” simulators, and receiving instruction on ejector seat usage and cold-weather survival techniques, before taking to the air last Thursday and Friday in a CF-18 fighter aircraft with Captain Paul “Squish” Umrysh. Both drivers have a keen interest in flying, and it was therefore not surprising they were more than a little impressed after their individual 90-minute missions, which included aerobatic maneuvers, breaking the sound barrier and taking part in simulated dogfights.
“It was incredible right from the start,” says Mario. “We did a high-performance take-off and broke the sound barrier at only 250 feet in the air! We did it again later in the flight, but I was flying the plane at that point. I also got to do barrel rolls and climbed straight up, at 45,000 feet per minute. It’s really impressive when you go full throttle and the afterburners kick in, but the most impressive thing was when we simulated the dogfight. That was incredible! A couple of times we pulled 7g.
“It was the best thing I have ever done! I had the time of my life, and I am really indebted to the Canadian Armed Forces and to Captain ‘Squish’ Umrysh. In fact, all the personnel at the Squadron were great hosts. I particularly enjoyed talking to the pilots, like Rambo, Jackass, Guns, Fister, Weed, and many others. Predictably, I guess, race drivers and fighter pilots seem to share the same taste for adrenaline.”
Zsolt was similarly impressed. “It really was something amazing, and for a few days, Mario and I had the opportunity to experience military life to the full,” he says. “I really enjoyed the flying, and from the moment you take off, you can feel you’re in something very special. The CF-18 accelerates and slows and maneuvers fantastically for an aircraft, but for me, the best part was when we had a four-on-four simulated dogfight on Friday. We practiced targeting, lock-ons, weapons firing, close-combat avoidance techniques and went supersonic – it was great!
“After the flying was over, there was a very nice Squadron party, and Mario and I were told we had dealt with our ‘adventure’ really well. The people at the base were just so friendly, and I can only thank ‘Squish’, and all the other Canadian Armed Forces personnel there, for making us feel so welcome.”